“Did you switch from mocha to crack?”
The Scoop: 2004 PG-13, directed by Paul Weitz and starring Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johansson
Tagline: No tagline
Summary Capsule: Old guy gets young guy as new boss, then gets mildly irked when young guy courts young daughter. But way, way more entertaining than that sounds.
Drew’s rating: From ’70s stoner to modern-day manager… apparently Topher Grace IS making the right career moves.
Drew’s review: I had no intention of liking this movie.
I wanted to get that out of the way in the beginning, because I would imagine that’s the reaction a lot of you had as well after seeing the trailers. Yay, another Father of the Bride/My Boss’s Daughter-type flick. Young guy gets promoted over old workhorse, starts dating his daughter on the sly. Dad, of course, finds out. Hilarity ensues. And given the direction of the marketing — along with Topher Grace’s claim in Ocean’s Twelve that he “totally phoned it in” — I think I can be forgiven my skepticism. I like That 70’s Show, but won’t go out of my way to see Grace in anything, I have no interest in finding out just how much Dennis Quaid can look like Pierce Brosnan, and while Scarlett Johansson is indeed F-I-N-E fine, logging onto the internet is cheaper than a movie ticket.
And yet here I am recommending this movie, at least to some of you. Why? I mean, it certainly isn’t what you’d call a cult movie. It’s not an undiscovered gem, or a film that’ll be on in the background of every geek party you ever attend. It won’t have you breaking into laughter spontaneously two hours after it’s over. But what it does do, and does very well, is appeal to a very specific segment of the population (business/salespeople), who will probably find in it a whole heck of a lot to relate to. If you’ve ever read a Dilbert strip and laughed more at the familiar situation than the actual joke, welcome to your movie.
If you weren’t able to figure out the general plot of the flick from previews, here goes. The sports magazine at which Dan Foreman (Quaid) works as VP of Sales is bought by legendary media tycoon Teddy K., leading to massive corporate restructuring (buzzword alert!). To Dan, this means a demotion to regular salesperson, with his former role now occupied by young hotshot exec Carter Duryea (Grace), who assures us he’s already heard all the Duryea/diarrhea jokes, so I won’t even bother.
Though ecstatic about his promotion, Carter’s smart enough to realize he hasn’t a clue what he’s doing, so he keeps Dan around for support and sets to work reshuffling the department. But with a new baby on the way and his oldest daughter (Johansson) moving to the city for college, can Dan learn enough new tricks to maintain his job and his sanity? And when Carter takes up with said daughter, will Dan live out the American dream by killing his boss? (Hint: No.)
I think one of the main reasons I was pleasantly surprised by this one is that the characters weren’t all pigeonholed into nice, predictable little archetypes. Believe me, I was expecting it too, but to the actors’ (and writers’) credit, they didn’t fall into that trap. Carter isn’t some weasely little turd who miraculously learns a lesson about being kind to his fellow man — the film makes it clear that he’s a basically nice guy from the get-go, if not quite sure about what he really wants. And Alex is in some respects the classic girl next door, yes, but she’s also got a healthy dose of the seductress in her; in the wake of so many one-note “good girl rebelling against daddy’s image” clichés, it’s refreshing to see a three-dimensional character who convincingly treads the line between loving daughter and loving… uh, lover. So kudos for that.
Which is not to say there aren’t any flaws. For instance, the impending baby never comes across as anything more than a plot device. I can understand why the producers felt they needed to include it — extra angst for Dan’s midlife crisis and all that — but the fact that I can only recall 3 scenes off the top of my head that it had any involvement in whatsoever (Ann announces her pregnancy, Ann and Dan construct a crib together, Ann gives birth) tells me that we really needed a little more focus on the bundle of joy. And while I’m ultimately satisfied with the way the film ended, I didn’t feel like I really understood Alex’s thought process leading up to her decision. It’s like when your teacher used to grade your papers in math class; sure, she came to the right conclusion, but I really needed to see the work that got her there.
Before we finish up here, I want to make it clear — this is not a movie that will appeal to everyone. Don’t go in expecting madcap hilarity — it’s funny, but not uproarious. Don’t go in expecting the most original story in the world — it puts some new spins on things, but it’s still a pretty familiar tale.
But if you’ve ever held a corporate job, or watched a hostile takeover happen around you; if you’ve ever listened to media moguls give speeches and wondered, “What the hell is he TALKING about?”; if you’ve ever had to let a good employee go, or been given your walking papers when you didn’t deserve it; if you’ve ever had someone younger promoted over you and had an overwhelming urge to pop them one, or found yourself in a job you were uniquely unqualified for… then odds are you’ll be able to relate to some of the things this movie has to offer.
No, it isn’t as incisive as Glengarry Glen Ross, nor as pointedly amusing as Office Space. But it has heart, it’s feel-good without being predictably saccharine, and it genuinely has something to say about our modern corporate culture. If that’s an environment you’ve ever found yourself in (voluntarily or otherwise), you could do a lot worse than this one.
- According to Topher Grace, after shooting a lengthy make-out sequence, he jokingly asked Scarlett Johansson who her best on-screen kiss was. When she responded seriously that he was it, he announced it to the entire crew.
- Shortest skirt known to man, or leftover napkin from lunch? You decide!
- Kinda surprising to see Selma Blair in such a minor role, but really- could anyone pull off the disaffected, bitchy wife part better than her?
- Marvel at the irony of blatant product placement in a film devoted to pointing out the evils of corporate conglomerates.
- Dan’s last name is Foreman, the same as Topher Grace’s character on That 70’s Show. Was that NOT supposed to take us out of the movie?
- The treatment of the nigh-deified “Teddy K!” is probably the best parody of paradigm-changing, buzzword-spouting mogul types I’ve ever seen. And I’ve watched Gremlins 2.
Carter: I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing… don’t tell anyone, okay?
Carter: I think you have the potential to be an awesome wingman.
Dan: Did you switch from mocha to crack?
Carter: You’ve got such a solid marriage, Dan. What’s the secret to building a real lasting relationship with a woman?
Dan: You just pick the right one to be in the foxhole with, and then when you’re outside of the foxhole, you keep your [l’il buddy] in your pants.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Office Space
- The Graduate
- An internship with Ted Turner