December 29, 2004

MOVIES: In Good Company (Paul Weitz, 2004)

In Good Company is a solidly crafted comedy, one of what will surely be a flood in the next few years about the woes facing the baby boomers as they head into middle age.

This one gives us Dennis Quaid as Dan, the head of ad sales for Sports America magazine, whose publisher has just been bought by an evil conglomerate (Why is it evil? Why, because it's a conglomerate, of course!). In the corporate reshuffling, Dan is demoted, and his new boss, Carter (Topher Grace), is half his age; Carter enters the job with orders to fire several salesmen in order to cut payroll, but he lets Dan stay on, telling him he'll make "an awesome wingman."

The movie works a little too hard to draw parallels between the two men. Both are going through family upheaval (Carter's wife is leaving him; Dan's is unexpectedly pregnant); each man injures his arm, Dan playing basketball (trying to match Carter's youth) and Carter crashing his new Mercedes (trying to match Dan's wealth and prestige).

There is an obligatory romantic plot in which Carter begins dating Dan's daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johansson); Grace and Johansson are appealing enough that this isn't as dull as it could have been.

But I'd have been happier if the movie had stuck to the workplace story and the relationship between the two men; that's certainly the best part of the movie, and there's more than enough material there to fill out a movie.

The movie's well written and directed by Paul Weitz. The cast includes such fine supporting players as Marg Helgenberger, Philip Baker Hall, Clark Gregg, and David Paymer. Dennis Quaid is especially good here, and he and Grace work very well together. Not essential viewing, but better than a lot of year-end movies that will get far more attention.

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