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"In Good Company"

Directed by Paul Weitz.
Written by Paul Weitz.
Starring Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johansson.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  1/28/05


Even when I saw the previews, I was thinking,

"You know, I don't think I've seen a movie like 'In Good Company' before.  Young hotshot exec takes job from old-school exec, then dates old-school's daughter, but seems to maintain friendship with old-school guy.  Hmm...better check this out."

And, thanks to a great performance by Topher Grace and the usual understated excellence from Dennis Quaid (who just seems to be having a ball at this stage in his career, doesn't he?), "In Good Company" is a solid dramedy that was enjoyable because it never seems to take the storybook path, always giving us a more grounded version of what each of the main characters would be going through if they were us, not some souped-up version of what we would love to be.

Here's what I mean--old-school exec Dan Foreman (Quaid) has a great job.  He's the senior ad sales guy for one of the country's most popular sports magazines.  He makes great money, has a great office, but only because of nearly 20 years in the business, a business that he loves.  He seems like a relatively normal guy that has worked hard for what he's gotten.  He doesn't have superstar looks, at least not anymore...his wife (Marg Helgenberger) also looks fairly normal, and he's got two kids with one more on the way, and his oldest, Alex (Scarlett Johansson), is studying at one of the SUNY schools just working her way through school.  He's not and seems to have never been a great athlete himself, he's a 51-year-old father-to-be, and he seems to have health problems throughout the film.

But, he's proud enough to suck it up when the magazine is bought by a global conglomerate and turned over to the conglomerate's number-one hotshot exec, 26-year-old Carter Duryea (Grace).  Dan doesn't love the fact that he's working for someone half his age, but he's got a family to, he takes on the role of #2 ad man for the magazine and shows Carter the ropes while dealing with his home-bound issues.  Carter seems to have it all together on the surface, but of course he doesn't really have it all outside of the office...he's a workaholic, a shitty driver, a bad husband, and runs with a damned ugly jogging style.  Carter envies Dan's home life, and in trying to glean some knowledge from his new employee he strikes up a, ahem, special friendship with Alex.

And the thing I loved most about these characters was that not only do they feel real, but their actions lead to more believable endings than most movies of this type.  I mean, I was pretty sure I had the ending pegged from the get-go, and I was happy to "get served" when things didn't turn out the way they seemed.  Carter's act is the one that gets old the fastest, so it was fun watching Grace turn his Carter around and give us some little nuances (the great hookup scene, his needy nature around even total strangers), since I was fearful that I was going to be annoyed by Carter's every move in the second hour of the film.  Quaid never seems to go over the edge (ala Kurt Russell in any of his films from the 80s), so his more subdued reactions to trouble--a bad heartbeat, a competitive game of basketball, being fired or almost fired in about five scenes--play perfectly with the Carter character.  I didn't love Johansson so much in this movie; don't get me wrong, I think she is great normally, but I thought her character wasn't as developed as the leads were.  We know she is interested in Carter, but don't really know why save for two or three long stares at him while walking to his car, or how their relationship is going once it gets going, because we are given these dates in montage form instead of briefly played out date by date.

I can't fault writer/director Paul Weitz ("American Pie" films, and "About a Boy") for doing things this way, but it leaves something to be desired about the Alex/Carter relationship.  Also, some of the side characters just feel wooden; in particular, Carter's boss Steckle (Clark Gregg) just feels like Kevin Spacey without any real-world motivation.  He just seems like Weitz's personal in-joke, like he had a boss like this in some past experience and instead of making him say logical things to Carter, he just spouts off one-liners.  Bad.  Helgenberger also gets the shaft, but the wife seems to always get the shaft in the movies, doesn't she?

There are some good laughs throughout "In Good Company" ("What, d'you switch from mocha to crack?") and things move well, never bogging down in any one issue for too long.  Good stuff that won't warrant a repeat viewing but made for fun times while it lasted.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09