Robert Hays, Barbara Hershey and Martin Mull Star in Boozy, Muddy Labor Comedy
DIRECTED BY GUS TRIKONIS/1981
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: JUNE 15, 2021/KL STUDIO CLASSICS
For anyone who’s ever wanted to tell their boss, “Take this job and shove it!”, this movie is for them. More specifically, for anyone who’s ever wanted to see Robert Hays, star of Airplane!, tell a guy playing his boss to “Take this job and shove it!”, this movie is really for them.
It’s probably not much of a spoiler to say that by the end of the movie Take This Job and Shove It, the main character emphatically echoes the title. But it’s the getting there that Take This Job and Shove It revels in. Based on a ubiquitous outlaw country song written by David Allan Coe and released as a hit by in 1977 by Johnny Paycheck (both of whom appear in the film, Coe singing a few songs with Lacy J. Dalton), the film is, above all, true to the central fed-up working man’s sentiment.
Rowdy and raucous and straight outta 1981, it’s a small wonder that this unapologetically rural beer-swilling dive of a flick didn’t push harder for an R rating. The many boozy barrooms binges give way to frivolous flings and frolicking fisticuffs. The primary pleasures of Take This Job and Shove It are retrospective at this point, it being a film so of its niche and within a particular time as to be something of a cultural artifact. Yet, the theme of the threat of a small-town assimilating into something less than humane and of dwindling quality is as rip-roaringly prescient as ever.
It’s a rough n’ tumble comedy, even as it’s steered by a “perils of corporate capitalism” message. Along the way, we pass through a company picnic rife with thick mud, a country highway full of vehicular shenanigans, a shower with a dog, and an outdoor scuffle that culminates with a guy wiping his bloody lip with a cat. Iron-on t-shirts, copious sweaty line workers, weedy overgrowth and brown wood paneling abound. It’s all transversed by way of the original Bigfoot monster truck, the prominent premier inclusion of which is credited with launching the national monster truck craze. In the movie, Bigfoot is just somebody’s truck.
All of that detailing may make Take This Job and Shove It sound considerably more fun than it generally is. The movie’s got its moments, but they are spread out across 100 minutes of mounting ethical challenge for Hays’s corporate beer industry hotshot who returns home to Debuque, Iowa to transform the recently acquired local brewer into shape. But when the increased pace and shareholder-pleasing output takes its toll on the set-in-their-ways longtime blue-collar employees, he must choose between job loyalty and the good of his lifelong friends. Will his casual hookups with Barbara Hershey- another too-bright-for-Debuque character who’s been drawn back to town- give way to something more substantial? Something less selfish?
Sometimes jumbled and messy in ways unintended even by this identifiably scraggly project, Take This Job and Shove It isn’t one of the great movies by any stretch. But it is one of the great shitkicker movies. Director Gus Trikonis, while sound with his camera and cuts, doesn’t always embrace the details as expected. The exact breakage of a broken beer bottle changing from one shot to another is splitting unwashed hairs, but when Hays finally does evoke the film’s title to tell off his old buzzard of a boss, his pronouncement of “Take your job, and shove it!” lands with conspicuous inexactitude. It’s particularly glaring insofar as it being one of the only times this yeehaw-carouser of a movie goes out of its way to exhibit proper grammar… and it’s at the expense of the title line.
But no matter. With a supporting cast including Hershey, Martin Mull, Art Carney, David Keith, Tim Thomerson, Eddie Albert and Royal Dano, KL Studio Classics’ nice looking new Blu-ray edition of this kicked-to-the-curb song adaptation proves to be another round worth having. With no extras other than trailers and an image gallery to weigh down the experience, one can chug this surly time capsule and then truck on to the next one. I ain’t workin’ here no more!