“Theme from Real Men” by Miles Goodman. This song really nails the 80s comedy vibe. Sort of Danny Elfman, synth fun. Goodman scored a ton of 80s movies you’ve seen, including Teen Wolf, Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Problem Child.
Interesting Dated References: The CIA and FBI being worried about extraterrestrials and Russians.
Best Line: There really isn’t a lot of funny dialogue in this movie. It was written and directed by Dennis Feldmen, whose only other forays into comedy were writing The Golden Child and Just One of The Guys. After this attempt at writing and directing Feldmen gave up on comedy all together and got into writing the science-fiction hits Species and Virus starring William Baldwin and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Social Context: The goal of the main characters in Real Men is to deliver a fresh glass of water to aliens from outer space in exchange for either a “special package” that will nullify an impending global toxic waste epidemic, or a “big gun” powerful enough to blow up the planet. Questionable logic aside, both of these count as social context.
Summary: A lot of people like to take shits all over Jim Belushi. I don’t know if that’s because people group him into the “less-talented-than-a-more-famous-sibling” category, or because they dislike his excessive use of eyebrow raising.
Regardless of how you feel, you still have to recognize the guy has worked continuously since the early 80s and has been fairly successful. Just because you think his hair is stupid or his acting is schlocky doesn’t mean you get to sit there in your fitted shirt and sandals and scoff at him.
In Real Men, Belushi plays a cocky, ill-tempered CIA agent. That’s not to be confused with the cocky, ill-tempered detective he played in the K-9 trilogy, or the cocky, ill-tempered police sergeant he played in Red Heat.
Belushi’s character is tasked with kidnapping a mild mannered insurance salesman (John Ritter), and driving him from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. CIA computers have identified Ritter as looking exactly like the recently-murdered CIA agent who was overseeing the alien water exchange. The CIA needs Ritter to do the exchange before “The Russians” ruin the deal and try to get the “big gun.”
John Ritter has one of those garage doors that has a real door built into it. Between that and the Plymouth Reliant K-car he’s driving, we’re deep into some mainstays of 80s innovation.
After getting home from work, Ritter gets pushed around by some local bullies (one of whom is James Le Gros), and fosters a sneaking suspicion his wife is having a passionate affair with the milkman.
In the middle of the night, Belushi breaks in and abducts Ritter to take him for the secret alien rendezvous. They are followed by Russians, who proceed to shoot up Ritter’s house and various other locales the duo attempt to take refuge in.
Eventually they stop at Belushi’s parents’ house. His transsexual father is played by Dyanne Thorne of Ilsa fame. Most of the attempts at humor in Real Men fall sort of flat and are half-hearted. Both Ritter and Belushi seem to be trying their best to get laughs, and they have a decent chemistry, but the script is too top-heavy with pointless attempts at humor (that transsexual father, ham-fisted Russian stereotypes, aliens wanting a glass of water, wives having affairs, etc.).
As they travel east, Ritter gets convinced he’s a super-powerful sleeper agent and starts to get all cocky. During one scene in a bar you get a really good look at Ritter’s coloboma in his right eye (see above). His pupil was off center. I’d never noticed it before, but appears he had it his whole life.
In another plot device joke that goes nowhere, Belushi leaves Ritter stuck with completing the mission by himself because he’s fallen in love with a dominatrix, but then he returns less than a minute later, just in time to deliver the glass of water to the aliens.
Ritter returns home a hero, beats up the bullies and the milkman, and Belushi flies away on a ladder dangling from a helicopter driven by his dominatrix lover.
Poster and Box Art: The poster for Real Men is a very well done example of painting/airbrushing at the height of the 80s with excellent treatment on the type and accurate-looking faces, although the use of negative white space is a bit off-putting.
Availability: Real Men is available on DVD. It was released by MGM, so I assume it’s at least restored and widescreen.