1987’s unapologetically inane Real Men, starring John Ritter and Jim Belushi, is a spy spoof rating as one of the more zany espionage parodies. A box office failure for a myriad of reasons, poor distribution leading the way, Belushi plays a flip CIA agent charged with escorting “every man” John Ritter on a cross-country odyssey to serve his nation in a very unique role. Trust me, you won’t guess.
This isn’t a great film in a traditional sense. What some viewers, however, will admire is the movie’s practically preening willingness to ditch any semblance of restraint in an effort to make the audience laugh. The shamelessness is delightful. Belushi’s character can have his parents living a few houses away from Ritter’s character, presumably by pure happenstance. Some of the movie’s “gunplay” features firearms loaded by the power of positive thinking as they cut down bad guys shaping their hands into handguns and the characters never question it. It’s close to a live action cartoon, in some ways, albeit geared towards adult viewers.
Ask it to be something it is never intended to be and it comes off as one of the decade’s worst comedies, but if you appreciate it for what it is, Real Men has moments of inspired lunacy. There’s a solid secondary cast working on this movie, but the key is obviously Belushi/Ritter. Belushi, virtually forgotten now, turns in one of his best comedic performances as Nick and exudes natural, entertaining smugness. Ritter’s performance as Bob is a perfect straight man for Belushi’s flippant demeanor and near constant smirk.
The ending is rushed no matter how you view the film. It isn’t the wrong conclusion, but there’s a strong feeling of the editor eyeing the expected running time for this movie and skimming over the movie’s ending rather than giving us a satisfying punch line. This alludes to another problem – the movie’s payoff pales, unfortunately, to the goofy nonsense we’ve experienced until then. It’s one of the decade’s underrated cult comedies, far more enjoyable than critics ever acknowledge, and still well worth a viewing over a quarter century following its release.