Release Date(s)1981 (June 15, 2021)
Studio(s)AVCO Embassy Pictures/StudioCanal (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C-
Take This Job and Shove It mixes comedy, drama, good ol’ boy hijinks, and plenty of country music into a satirical look at a corporate conglomerate’s takeover of a struggling Iowa brewery. Robert Hays (Airplane!) stars as a slick, big-city executive and Barbara Hershey (Hannah and Her Sisters) co-stars as an empathetic hometown girl.
Frank Macklin (Hays) is assigned by boss Samuel Ellison (Eddie Albert) to go to the Star Brewery to shake things up, improve efficiency, and maximize profits. He’s to report directly to Dick Ebersol (Martin Mull) at the home office. Frank gets a cold reception initially until he informs the workers that the brewery is losing money and they may lose their jobs. The challenge for Frank is twofold. Because the brewery is located in his hometown, he has to balance his old relationships with the workers against their antagonism toward changing their long-established but inefficient routines.
Frank’s old friends Harry (David Keith) and Ray (Tim Thomerson), employees of the brewery, don’t make things easy for him. They assume Frank will take it easy on the workers and pick up their roughhouse joking as if everything is the same as in their younger, wilder days. But Frank is serious. His promotion in the company depends upon the success of this assignment. This causes resentments and even hostility from the workers.
Inspired by the Johnny Paycheck song of the same name, Take This Job and Shove It is funny in obvious slapstick ways but never achieves a level of cleverness. We know how things will work out despite a few twists along the way. Hays is very good as the likable, non-confrontational outsider who is also an insider. While he is sympathetic to the brewery workers, he nonetheless must force them to face realities that could destroy their livelihoods.
Keith and Thomerson as Frank’s one-time buddies provide most of the film’s energy. When they’re on screen, the film is at its best. They have their characters down pat and embody fun loving, beer drinking, living-from-one-paycheck-to-the-next, good-hearted cut-ups. Rather than treat them as joke machines, the script humanizes them. Keith’s Harry is even seen at home worrying about what will happen to his family if he loses his job.
Director Gus Taikonis includes two scenes that veer from the main story and throw off the balance of the film. One is a truck race that ends with everyone sliding and cavorting in mud, and the other is an impromptu football game in a barroom that causes considerable destruction yet is presented as guys just blowing off steam. The scenes offer action but resort to low comedy to elicit laughs and digress from the main story line.
Barry Schneider’s screenplay mixes blue-collar pranks and good-natured mischief with Frank’s attempts to achieve his goal despite obstacles from both corporate headquarters and the townsfolk, and a bit of love interest is tossed in between Frank and former girlfriend J.M. (Hershey). The film is served greatly by country music performances seen and heard throughout, which provide a sweet, down home feel to the proceedings.
Featuring 1080p resolution, the Blu-ray of Take This Job and Shove It from Kino Lorber Studio Classics is presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Clarity is sharp and nicely defined. Complexions are natural, with Harry and Ray’s ruddy faces suggesting considerable beer consumption. Clothing patterns, brewery vats, bottling machines, kegs, and labeling machines are well detailed. A long shot as Frank drives to the brewery shows the vast farmland and establishes the Iowa location. The truck race and barroom football game feature stunt work and provide kinetic energy. Color is well saturated with Frank’s red sports car, the bright blue truck in the truck race, multi-colored clothing on extras in the picnic scenes, and the bright red beer bottle labels especially prominent.
The soundtrack is English 2.0 Mono DTS-High Definition Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are an available option. Dialogue is clear and distinct throughout, even during the mud scene. Eddie Albert is somewhat over the top in his loud delivery as the corporate head, but David Keith’s and Tim Thomerson’s down-home naturalness makes their characters believable. Dialogue in the barroom is somewhat echo-y. The truck race and barroom football game feature a diversity of sound effects, all nicely balanced. In a final scene, fire hoses spray water everywhere with occasional bits of dialogue easily heard amid the splashing. Music by Bobby Bare, David Allan Coe, Charlie Rich, Billy Sherrill, and Johnny Paycheck is the choice of workers at the brewery, who listen to it during their off-time. The music is especially effective in the truck race sequence.
Bonus materials include an image gallery and theatrical trailers.
Image Gallery – This slideshow presentation features the original color poster for the film, as well as black-and-white and color production stills.
Theatrical Trailers – Included are six trailers for this and other releases by Kino Lorber: Take This Job and Shove it, Honky Tonk Freeway, Million Dollar Mystery, Moving Violations, High Ballin, and Body Slam.
Take This Job and Shove It was not particularly successful in theaters when it was first released in 1981, but became popular on cable TV later on. Hays does a good job as the main character, and the assortment of colorful types gives the film a needed lift to shore up a simple plot. It’s a breezy, easygoing picture with just the right amount of conflict.
- Dennis Seuling