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Summer of ‘90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ‘80s Nostalgia

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Summer of ’90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ’80s Nostalgia

Triumph Releasing Corporation

Summer of ’90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ’80s Nostalgia

Men at Work is patient zero for the plague of Charlie Sheen movies that infected the 1990s. One tends to forget that Sheen had steady work in that decade, turning out cocky fare like The Chase and Terminal Velocity. And while Men at Work isn’t the first film to use the actor in his then-typical role of a wiseass hot-shot lothario, the casual laziness that would infect his ’90s output has its origins in writer-director Emilio Estevez’s crime comedy. As Carl Taylor, Sheen can’t be bothered to do anything but exist on screen as he wades through his brother’s mercilessly overstuffed plot.

Estevez’s second feature is a major step down from his 1986 debut, Wisdom. For that film, Estevez was flanked by a massively talented crew: It was edited by Michael Kahn, scored by Danny Elfman, and produced by legendary Oscar-winning director Robert Wise, whom Estevez sought out for advice and guidance. Despite all that firepower, Wisdom is shocking in its ineptitude, a crime thriller saddled with far too many useless details and tangents. The more problematic Men at Work suffers from the same screenplay overcompensations, to the point where one wishes Estevez sought out Wise’s contemporary, Billy Wilder, for advice instead. Wilder would have burned the script for Men at Work.