Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Title:In Good Company
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger
Director: Paul Weitz

Dan (Dennis Quaid) is a 51-year-old ad-manager for a big company. With two teenage daughters and another child on the way. He is reasonably happy, if a little stressed, and popular at work. Until, the company is taken over by a larger corporation. This pulls the rug out from under Dan, suddenly he is dropped in the deep end of corporate politics, where the incoming corporate representatives are like Vikings, raping and pillaging on the corporate front line – you will increase productivity, lower overheads, and you’ll do it with less staff. To make matters worse, Dan finds that he has been demoted, and is now second fiddle to Carter (Topher Grace) – a 26-year-old fast tracker, who actually has no experience of the job, but then how much experience do you need to fire people?

This establishes the basic plot, the comedic value of generations clashing, with the added twist of Carter meeting and dating Dan’s daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson). From the trailers for In Good Company I thought that there was a certain potential to be had from the material and that it could be intelligently funny. However the slash and burn message that is at the core of the film is something which is perhaps more horrifying and traumatic for many these days, rather than funny. The point of the film is Carter’s realisation that he has no friends, his marriage has broken down, and that he can’t treat people this way. This sets him up for redemption, creating the potential for warm fuzzy feelings and a happy ending.

However, for me, at no point does Topher Grace succeed in making his character likeable. His turn around is wishy-washy, one that is forced upon him like a slap in the face – more A Christmas Carol style intervention than a bright light of love and good feeling. If Grace never manages to make Carter likeable then the film has a very central and very real flaw.

One which Quaid does his best to compensate for, ironically playing the polar opposite role of the part he plays in the Flight Of The Phoenix, which is showing at the same time in the UK as In Good Company. While he is a rugged, mans-man, and intrepid pilot in Phoenix, here he is a family man, a salary man – someone who loves his children and wants the best for them, someone who loves his staff and wants the best for them. As such there is some comedy to be had from Quaid’s journey into this alien work structure that is suddenly thrust upon him. As his daughter Scarlett Johansson also plays a key role, especially as she comes between Quaid and Grace. Selma Blair also makes an appearance as Grace’s departing wife, another bit part bitch role, something which seems to unfortunately crop up as with an unseemly regularity for an actress who actually is more capable than that.

In Good Company has its moments, but on the whole is a disappointing and grating piece of work.

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