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In Good Company (2004)

Directed by:

Paul Weitz

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 109 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG

Country: United States

Just before going to see ‘In Good Company’, I watched the award-winning Canadian documentary The Corporation for the first time. The Corporation climbs onto its ethical high horse about big, faceless multinationals and how they see themselves as nations in their own right, laying people off willy-nilly and not giving a monkey’s bum about the lives it damages in the process. At first glance ‘In Good Company’ might look like it’s going to be a generic rom-com – but, surprisingly, it actually deals with several of the same issues as The Corporation and, what’s more, it does it in a considerably more subtle, enjoyable and rewarding way.

Dennis Quaid continues his startlingly-impressive recent career revival by taking the lead role of Dan Foreman, an ageing family man who’s spent his life running the advertising department for a top sports magazine. He’s good at his job, and he knows it – but he’s also considered a bit of a dinosaur, if not for his apparently-outdated methods then certainly for his leathery skin. So, when the mag’s parent company merges with industrial giants Globecom, he suddenly finds himself demoted, with his old shoes (or, to be more precise, his old office) being filled by snotty young upstart Carter Duryea (Topher Grace).

Of course, this is a movie not about business itself, but the lives it affects – and it’s not long before Dan and Carter find themselves forming an uncomfortable sort-of-friendship, culminating in cheeky whipper-snapper Carter falling for Dan’s daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson).

The story has a lot going for it, with likable, well thought out characters and a writer-director (Paul Weitz, who was also behind both American Pie and About a Boy) who’s talented enough to knit it all together without dropping a stitch. Strong, realistic performances from all involved (the impressive supporting cast includes Selma Blair, Malcom McDowell and the excellent David Paymer) turn this into a film that’s funny and touching without ever becoming overly-sentimental and schmaltzy. Grace, in particular, provides his best turn yet, and watching his performance here I was reminded of a young Tom Hanks (Carter is certainly the sort of character Hanks often played during the 80s).

It seems a pity that this movie is being marketed as a romantic comedy, when in actual fact it’s so much more than that. Sure, romance plays a part, but the central relationship in ‘In Good Company’ is the one between Dan and Carter – and that’s just one of the factors that makes this original, thoughtful and effective movie well worth watching.

It's Got: Topher Grace in a role originally intended for Ashton Kutcher. Thankfully though, Kutcher was dropped from the production, presumably because the rest of the crew were too preoccupied with trying to kick him in the face to get on with their work.

It Needs: For someone to explain whether or not it’s some sort of contractual obligation these days for all romantic scenes to be accompanied by a Damien Rice song. The guy’s no Roddy Frame, that’s for sure.

Summary

Please, please, please don’t let the grossly misleading trailers put you off – this isn’t a forgettable rom-com, but a wonderfully observed comedy drama. One of the most enjoyable flicks – and biggest surprises – of the year.

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