erasing clouds

In Good Company works for both couples and

reviewed by matthew webber

A year from now, when you’re looking for a rental, be sure to read the box carefully: In Good Company should never be confused with In the Company of Men.

Despite their almost identical titles, settings (offices), and plot synopses (young employees climb the ladder; someone invariably gets screwed), the former is as sweet as a slice of American Pie, another film by director Paul Weitz (also, About a Boy). The latter is nasty, brutish, and either too short or not short enough, depending on your stomach for director Neil LaBute.

Both films are comedies, but only In Good Company can be considered romantic. This label, although accurate, limits the appeal of the film. In Good Company is a romantic comedy perhaps thirdly, after it is a buddy picture and a coming-of-age film. In places, it is even a family melodrama, but everywhere each genre works. As Weitz has shown in his previous work, he’s a director who cares about each character’s story, from the bankable star’s to the babyfaced newcomer’s, blurring the distinction between actor and supporting.

Whose story is this? What’s it about? Your answers could just as easily depend on your age and sex as on the clever script.

The never-better Dennis Quaid justifiably gets top billing as Dan Foreman, a 52-year-old magazine-advertising sales manager with a pregnant wife, a sexually aware older daughter, and a crisis of confidence at work brought on by the corporate takeover of his company and his demotion to “wingman” of a kid exactly half his age. Critical It Girl Scarlett Johansson is his adorable daddy’s girl, Alex, juggling the priorities of school, athletics, and love. That ‘70s Show’s Topher Grace, in his first starring adult role, is Dan’s espresso-chugging, tailored-suit-wearing, “ninja assassin” boss, Carter Duryea, who thinks everything is “awesome” even though he’s really “scared shitless” inside.

Clearly, Carter is in way over his parted hair - but so is his new girlfriend, the aforementioned wingman’s daughter. And so is Dan, struggling to keep his job and provide for his expanding family. As Carter and Alex labor to keep their relationship secret, Carter and Dan switch from adversary to accomplice and back.

Meanwhile, the only “anti” that creeps into this wholesome Hollywood fare is a healthy fear of corporatism that is maybe the point of the movie. Or else it’s the standard finding-yourself trip that all three main characters take. As the characters balance work and relationships, money and love, so does the movie. Even when the ending is just different enough not to be Hollywood, it’s happy enough that it is.

Calling this movie inoffensive might sound like a slag, but that’s exactly what it is, and it works. There’s no reason this movie can’t appeal to the desperate-housewife Quaid fan or the bloggers with crushes on Johansson and Grace - who, by the way, are perfect playing people their own age.

But if you take your comedies like you take your morning coffee -- black and bitter -- In the Company of Men is probably available at your local video rental store.

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