By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Modernizing a beer factory.
Frank (Robert Hays) is hired by a conglomerate called The Ellison Group to find ways to improve a beer factory that they own and get it in the black. Since Frank is originally from the small town where the factory is located he excitedly takes-on the task, but soon finds himself at odds with many of the workers, some of whom he was friends with in highs school, but who now look at him as a threat to their jobs. While the ideas that he implements are at first resisted the situation in the factory improves and the place begins turning a profit. Unfortunately it becomes such a success that The Ellison Group decides to sell it to a man with a background in the oil business, who doesn’t know the first thing about beer production, which gets everyone in the factory to rebel from the acquisition in very physical ways when the new owner and his cronies arrive for a visit.
The movie was filmed at an actual beer factory, The Dubuque Star Brewery, in Dubuque, Iowa, that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and although no longer functioning as a brewery it still stands today. The history of the place is similar to the movie as it was bought by Joseph Pickett in 1971 who implemented a massive renovation when he found that it was still using equipment from the 1930’s. The story itself was inspired by the hit country song that sat on top of the country charts for 2-weeks and was performed by Johnny Paycheck and written by David Allan Coe, both of whom appear in the movie.
The production has some nice on-location shooting of not only Iowa, but also the Twin Cities and I really dug the basketball court in the mansion owned by Eddie Albert’s character. The working class issues and the gritty nature of their jobs and lifestyles is basically on-target, but the movie bills itself as a comedy, and the trailer makes it seem almost like it’s going to be a farce, but in reality it’s more of drama with very little action until the end. There’s not much that’s funny either and the thin, predictable premise gets stretched-out longer than it should ultimately making it boring and a strain to sit through.
The main defect is the Robert Hays character. While he performs the part well he’s not enough of a jerk, or nemesis and thus the confrontational drama is missing. Having him from the area originally was a mistake as he seems too different from everyone else around him and creating him as an outsider from the big city that had little to no regard for the people working under him would’ve created the necessary fireworks that this otherwise benign film lacks. It also would’ve made a more interesting character arch where he’d go from arrogant, city-slicker to a humble man who would learn to appreciate those that he initially looked down on instead of having him already a semi-part of the group to begin with. It also hopelessly wastes the talents of Barbra Hershey, who gets cast as an idealistic, pro-labor lady, a perfect part for her, and I was expecting the two to quarrel over their contrasting viewpoints, but it never gels and she’s seen far too little.
The script also suffers from logic loopholes and continuity errors. While a hotel room door may seem like a minor thing to quibble about it became a big deal for me. The scenario starts out funny enough, possibly the only amusing bit in the movie, with Fran Ryan playing the owner of the hotel touring him around the cramped, rundown room and acting like it’s a more ritzy place than it really is. Later though while Hays is asleep, his buddies from the factory rip the door off its hinges by attaching a chain to it that’s connected to a pick-up truck, but there’s no scene showing, or explaining, how the door ends up getting reattached. The door is also apparently always unlocked as both Hershey and the Martin Mull character walk into the room from the outside unheeded, but most if not all hotel room doors automatically lock when they’re closed, so why doesn’t this one? In the case of Martin Mull he walks in on Hays while he’s still asleep, but you’d think Hays definitely would’ve locked the door from the inside and put the security chain on it before going to bed, so again how is Mull able to just open it? He doesn’t even bother to knock, which is absurd too since he’s never been to that hotel before, so how would he even know for sure he had the right room and wasn’t walking in on a stranger?
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: April 1, 1981
Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes
Director: Gus Trikonis
Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Available: DVD-R, Blu-ray-R