IN GOOD COMPANY|
U.S. Release Date:
December 29, 2004
Director: Paul Weitz
Writer: Paul Weitz
Producer: Rodney M. Liber (executive producer), Andrew Miano, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Composer: Stephen Trask
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, Philip Baker Hall, Selma Blair, Ty Burrell
Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sexual content and drug references)
Universal's glossy In Good Company, written and directed by Paul Weitz (About a Boy), fails to sell its Baby Boomer sentiments. Featuring Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace as falling and rising advertising executives, respectively, Weitz spreads the already superficial script too thin.
The premise has scads of comic possibilities. Quaid's aging ad director for a sports magazine is replaced by twentysomething Grace's hi-tech hotshot, who falls for Quaid's college-bound daughter (Scarlett Johansson). Sliding with Quaid down the corporate ladder are Marg Helgenberger as his wife and David Paymer as his gloomy associate.
One-liners and sight gags are all that's here to recommend. After the publication is bought by a huge corporation—headed by uncredited Malcolm McDowell's flashy CEO—Quaid is demoted just as daughter Johansson is admitted into pricey NYU and Helgenberger discovers she is pregnant.
Most people would be happy to be working after a merger and might consider telling tennis jock Johansson to go easy on the Gatorade or ask wifey to consider an abortion (has anyone had an abortion onscreen for the last 30 years?), but not Quaid. He gripes, he whines and he shuffles along as if the world owes him something. He doesn't tell his wife he's been replaced at work.
Yet, Topher Grace's whiz kid—a retread of his Piggly Wiggly manager in Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, who barely speaks in complete sentences—envies Quaid's steady suburbanite. This is In Good Company's main problem; it is not based in reality. Baby Boomer Quaid is decent enough, and the family's fine, but it's hard to relate to his dilemma when his wife, who apparently doesn't work and never did, gets knocked up and everyone acts like having a baby is a fabulous idea for an aging couple barely able to pay the mortgage.
Grace's character has a few issues, too. His newlywed wife (Selma Blair in a useless walk-on) dumps him and he goes into some sort of catatonic state that's supposed to be hilarious and isn't. Since he's a lousy husband, a bad driver and a questionable executive, what might have been charming ruins any sense that he's a serious corporate contender. Paired with Quaid's ho-hum Boomer, Grace's caffeine fiend saps the life out of In Good Company.
Weitz errs in portraying the sports magazine broadly, with scarcely an athletic reference. Without laying eyes on an ad, let alone an ad campaign, it is hard to be invested in the lives and fortunes of those who make money selling ads.
The worst call is the Grace-Johansson romance, which takes a cute side story and puts it front and center as if it really matters, then tosses it aside like yesterday's sports pages. The affair feels like an excuse to cash in on Johansson's sex appeal.
In a Manhattan restaurant climax, Quaid's character publicly humiliates his daughter—and physically assaults Grace—and his entitlement mentality finally consumes the movie. Instead of getting his due, just as Johansson's college girl is starting to grow up and ought to tell Daddy to go fish, Weitz makes Johansson and Grace grovel and beg for forgiveness.
In Good Company offers several touching scenes between Grace and Johansson and spots of good humor from the supporting cast. But eventually it's all monkey business about a man who's still a boy, a boy who merely mimics a man and a girl who won't decide to grow up, making it a sort of Baby Boomer fantasy that's solidly in the red.
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