In Good Company


Dennis Quaid as Dan Foreman
Topher Grace as Carter Duryea
Scarlett Johansson as Alex Foreman
Marg Helgenberger as Ann Foreman
David Paymer as Morty
Clark Gregg as Steckle
Philip Baker Hall as Eugene Kalb
Selma Blair as Kimberly
Frankie Faison as Corwin
Ty Burrell as Enrique Colon
Kevin Chapman as Lou
Amy Aquino as Alicia
Zena Grey as Jana Foreman
Colleen Camp as Receptionist
Lauren Tom as Obstetrician

Terrific on-screen chemistry between Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid and a premise rife with comic possibilities makes this a decent but flawed follow-up to About a Boy.

Veteran ad executive Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) gets scared for his job when he is replaced a boss half his age (Topher Grace), but things get more complicated when his boss starts dating his eldest daughter (Scarlett Johansson).

Early on in this dramatic comedy from Paul Weitz – one half of the duo responsible for American Pie and About a Boy – 26-year-old ad executive Carter Duryea, played by That 70s Show‘s Topher Grace, gives a stirring speech to his new employees about something called “synergy.” It’s appropriate, not only because it was the film’s original and much better title, but also because it’s the best way to describe the rapport between Grace and his elder co-star Dennis Quaid. Both actors appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, but never on screen together, so watching them play off each other so well despite having little in common is a credit to whoever cast them.

Quaid plays Dan Foreman, a 52-year-old ad exec and family man who supervises ad sales for a popular sports magazine, but when a wealthy mogul buys the magazine, Dan is demoted, replaced by the younger go-getter. Of course, as a more experienced salesman, he is opposed to taking orders from someone half his age at first, but Carter makes him an offer-either be his “wing man” and help him get acclimated to his new job or look for a new job himself.

Despite being the worst possible yuppie corporate shill, Carter isn’t necessarily the bad guy of the piece, as his new job comes at the same that his wife, played by Selma Blair, gets sick of him putting his work before their marriage and leaves him. Although he puts on an air of confidence at the workplace, Carter is obviously lonely and needing of companionship when not at the office, so he gets himself invited to dinner with Dan’s family, where he meets his college-age daughter Alex.

From there, Dan’s attempts to deal with the changes at the workplace are overshadowed by the romance between Carter and his daughter, which never really works. You would think that a successful business type like Carter would have a lot more women to choose from and wouldn’t have to settle from a rather plain coed. Even the relationship between Alex and her father seems forced into the script, lending itself to the obvious situations and resolutions when Dan catches them. It might not be half as annoying if not for the fact that Daniel “Lemony Snicket” Handler used the same premise in the little seen Rick, which handled the exact same younger boss-father-daughter relationship much better. Despite the promise Scarlett Johansson has showed in the last year, this secondary role is a step back for her.

Still, there’s no denying the prowess of the two lead actors. In About a Boy, Paul Weitz was partially responsible for getting Hugh Grant’s best performance as a flawed but sympathetic character, but there’s two equally potent performances at work here. We already knew that Quaid could carry a film, whether it be comedy or drama, but it’s quite a leap for Grace to play such a robust role after the one-dimensional character he plays on television. Grace’s ability to be charming and likeable even while firing people, which he does a lot in this movie, is the most impressive. Neither actor ever dominates or takes the supporting part, playing off each other well but also allowing each other to have their own moments. Their shaky relationship builds up to a great moment where the Richard Branson like head of the company, played by Malcolm McLaren, shows up to give a speech only to be given a piece of Dan’s mind.

The main story gets a bit distracted by minor subplots like Dan’s wife, played by CSI’s Marg Helgenberger, springing a surprise pregnancy on him, and the more satisfying subplot with David Paymer playing another company veteran worried that his wife will be wearing the last pant leg of the film if her were to lose his job.

Like About a Boy, the music plays a large part in the tone of the movie, but the choice of songs could have been better, if only because groups like the Shins and Iron and Wine were already prominently featured in Zach Braff’s Garden State earlier this year. It makes it look like Weitz lacks originality, not helped by the use of a Peter Gabriel song, which has almost become the staple of the feel good comedy.

Many films this year have tried to mix comedy and drama to emulate real life situations, and despite the problems, Weitz’s solo debut finds just the right mix of the two, making this a decent alternative comedy that any guy between the ages of the two stars should be able to appreciate.

In Good Company opens in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday and then nationwide on January 14.