2005-02-04 / Columnists

MovieScope

By Robert Snyder


Imagine you’re 51 years old, the successful head of ad sales for a prestigious national sports magazine, when  apple-of-your-eye oldest daughter transfers to a high-priced college, your wife announces she’s pregnant and a prodigy half your age takes your office, job and the daughter.

Such is the dilemma where Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) finds himself during the course of “In Good Company.” Switching gears from the ultra-crude comedy of “American Pie,” writer-director Paul Weitz explores the humorous possibilities of mid-life angst in corporate America…with mixed results.

The first act of the film is perfectly played by Quaid as reality hits his character with a tsunami-level intensity. Demoted and dishonored, yet clinging to his new role as “wing man” under upstart Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), Dan is confused by the world of synergy and cross promotion (what does sugary breakfast food have to do with cell phones? Or computers with athletic events?).

After daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) drops her SUNY tennis scholarship for a creative writing major at costly NYU, Dan meets with Carter, who is sharpening his axe for major lay offs as decreed by corporate raider Teddy K (Malcolm McDowell). However, Carter does have a heart, which has recently been broken by his soon-to-seek-divorce wife of seven months. The wonder boy worms his way to dinner with the Foreman family, where he flips over pretty Alex.

At this point, the cute comedy begins to detach from the real world, as Alex and Carter keep their romance a secret and Dan’s old-fashioned salesmanship wins over Teddy K. When Dan discovers that his daughter and the baby boss are an item, he punches out the pampered predator in public... an action which makes Alex return to Poppa’s arms (my daughter would have disowned me).

“Company’s” climax is almost upside down, with the young yuppie on the outs and Dan reclaiming his corporate throne. Still, Carter is never portrayed as evil, yet he is forced to accept what the film depicts as failure – a teaching career.

“In Good Company” is fine for the first hour, then becomes stuck in the Twilight Zone tar pit of Hollywood unreality.

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