Titled after a “Simpsons” joke, “Men Without Jobs” focuses on Ish and Oz, a couple of slackers laying about their apartment, playing Atari 2600 and watching cooking shows, in fear of giving their artistic talents a shot, but in total denial of that fear. They talk some big game about starting up a band together, but when it actually comes down to doing it, well, they’re just waiting for their piggy bank to fill up so they can go buy all the equipment and records they will need. Being that their mouths are bigger than their actions, nobody actually knows if the guys have musical talent, but they definitely have talents in other areas. Ish is a graffiti artist and Oz is a natural gourmet chef, but both of them take their skills for granted and so the slacking continues, until Ish’s new girlfriend tries to spark a change in their laziness, at the same time afraid of testing her own talents at a local art school.
There’s an important message here, even if it’s laid on a little thick at times, and it’s that you never know what you’re capable of unless you stop talking and start doing. A life can easily be wasted by fear of one’s own failure or success, paralyzing that person to the point of walking coma, resulting in the ultimate failure. Accenting this message are lovable performances from Bonz Malone as Oz and Ishmael Butler, formerly of hip-hop group Digable Planets, as Ish. They alone make this movie work. You really get to like these characters and you wind up pulling for them to get their shit together instead of just getting annoyed at their laziness. The supporting characters are just as equally pleasant to spend time with.
In a Q&A I conducted with filmmaker Mad Matthewz, the director revealed that film is based on his own previous fear of dedicating his life to his art. Well, I’m glad he overcame that fear because the result has given us the highly infectious “Men Without Jobs.”