MGM // 1987 // 85 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // January 13th, 2004
The fate of the world is in their hands. God help us all.
CIA agent Pillbox is mysteriously murdered while on a secret assignment. The CIA comes upon a brilliant solution: they will find an exact double to replace Pillbox. Their man: Bob Wilson (John Ritter), a wimpy insurance agent. The CIA assigns their best agent Nick Pirandello (James Belushi) to recruit Wilson and show him the ropes. Through a series of strange circumstances, Pirandello tells Wilson that the fate of the world relies on a group of aliens getting a glass of water by the end of the week in exchange for a potential weapon.
Real Men was barely released theatrically. The distributor, United Artists, was still suffering the aftereffects of the Heaven's Gate fiasco and financial troubles were still in full force. It's a shame they couldn't lend more support to the final product, since Real Men is a slight but very entertaining comedy. It doesn't always succeed, but the film never fails to provide a smile throughout its brief 85-minute running time.
The film has echoes of The In-Laws (1979), which was one of the funniest films ever made. Real Men doesn't even come close to approaching the manic hilarity of the earlier film. However, there are some inspired moments to be found. Examples include Ritter's seduction at the hands of one of Belushi's relatives, and a moment when Ritter thinks his finger can shoot real bullets. The plot is admittedly silly and absurd, but the very idea that aliens would travel millions of miles to Earth just for a glass of water requires suspension of belief and for the most part, we go along with the ride. I did and I had a good time watching this.
Film buffs take note: This film uses the gag about the tabloids containing accurate information about aliens before Men in Black even existed! Belushi's lines and payoff of this gag are worth the price of a rental.
John Ritter and James Belushi have good comic chemistry together, although both have been better before and after Real Men. Belushi is especially funny when he nonchalantly breaks one bit of bad news after another to a panic ridden Ritter. Ritter at first doesn't have much to do, but he builds on the situation and delivers a subtle comic performance. Plus, he hadn't lost his touch for slapstick. What a shame that John Ritter is no longer with us. Just imagine: with a bigger budget and better distribution, what a follow-up he and Belushi could have done together.
MGM continues to irritate us by giving some films full frame transfers. Real Men was composed and shot in 1.85:1 and a widescreen version should have been offered, perhaps on a double-sided disc. Popi and The Couch Trip received similar treatment, and despite the low price, I find it hard to recommend a purchase for this disc. The full frame transfer is loaded with grain and minor artifacts. Colors look subdued and faded, which, unless it was the intent of the filmmakers, shouldn't be, especially for a film that was made in 1987. MGM has earned a special place in my heart and wallet for their reasonable prices and usual good product, but the full frame policy needs reevaluation. The main attraction of DVD is the ability to see our favorite movies in their original aspect ratio and I hope MGM pays close attention.
The sound is a little better. MGM offers us Dolby Digital 2.0 mono in your choice of English or Spanish, the score and dialogue sound clear and fresh throughout the feature.
Extras are limited to a full frame theatrical trailer, which is funny and very much worth seeing.
Even with the low retail price of $14.99, I cannot recommend a purchase. A rental is a good idea, however. Give it a chance and you'll find an entertaining comedy that didn't get a fair chance.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer