IN GOOD COMPANY
As they proved with American Pie, the Weitz Brothers know something about the recipe for easily consumed entertainment. And, as they went on to show with the far more mature About a Boy, they can also entertain intelligently and charmingly. With In Good Company, they take another giant step away from pies and hormonally charged guys to deliver another highly watchable, enjoyable comedy with just enough gravity lurking beneath the levity. Like About a Boy, the film is an engaging diversion that lovingly, wisely plays with human foibles and uncomfortable truths.
Writer-director Paul Weitz has seized upon a timely theme: corporate reshuffling wherein youth trumps experience and ass-kissing and ruthless drive render less possessed but capable workers as vulnerable as deer in headlights.
Against this jungle-like backdrop of conglomerates consolidating, diversifying, downsizing or synergizing in the interest of goosing stock prices and lining executive pockets, Weitz gives us a broad-stroke but authentic take on corporate carnage. Abetted by a fine cast, the director courageously allows time for even the story's less pivotal moments to sink in.
The plot requires no Cliffs Notes: Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is a fifty-something, devoted family man and ace New York ad sales honcho with Sports America, a popular magazine rudely taken over by Globecom, a rapacious media conglomerate run by Teddy K. (Malcolm McDowell, uncredited). A Richard Branson-esque Brit mogul and amateur daredevil, Teddy is off circling the globe in an air balloon while his slavish henchmen, notably macho company man Steckle (Clark Gregg), oversee the absorption of the magazine into new hands. Steckle taps hotshot Carter (Topher Grace), the workaholic, twenty-something dynamo and consumer animal who triumphed in Globecom's cell-phone division, to take over as head of ad sales.
In his new gig, Carter moves into Dan's office and relegates Dan to sales assistant, a fate luckier than that of some of Dan's colleagues, including likable mensch Morty (David Paymer), who ultimately gets the boot. Dan's family situation makes his comedown all the more painful: Oldest daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) is transferring from a state school to the much more expensive New York University. And wife Ann (Marg Helgenberger) is unexpectedly expecting their third child.
But matters are worse on Carter's home front: His obsession with work and getting ahead has sent neglected wife Kimberly (Selma Blair) packing. Lonely and coping badly, Carter muscles his way into dinner at the Foremans, where he immediately clicks with daughter Alex. With Alex soon installed at NYU, the two begin a clandestine affair that leaves Dan wondering why his daughter never calls anymore. Eventually, he catches on and after Dan confronts the pair in a loud face-off at a trendy Tribeca restaurant, Carter and Alex go their separate ways. Both Carter's and Dan's career arcs move radically after both come face to face with Globecom superboss Teddy at a company gathering.
If Weitz gets most things right, there are a few jarring "Huh?" moments, as when Dan overreacts to the Alex-Carter liaison with a '50s mentality by way of Victorian prudery and a confrontational ferocity worthy of an action movie. And there's also the matter of 18-year-old Alex suddenly emerging as everyman's fantasy of a female sex predator.
Otherwise, Weitz hits his marks. Quaid is particularly convincing as the man who feels his age, and Grace excels as the ambitious animal who exploits it. Supporting performances are all fun, and Weitz's witty script finds room for an expression of worthy values that deserve some play.
Cleverly embracing several generations in its story of the corporate jungle and personal turmoil, In Good Company will find company among a broad swath of mainstream moviegoers.
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