Up before dawn preparing for another day at the office, Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid, "The Day After Tomorrow") discovers that his Sports America magazine has been gobbled up by Globecom and finds a used pregnancy test in the wastebasket. Worrying about his teenage daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson, "Lost in Translation") as well as his future, Dan goes to work and is told that while his job is safe, he must step down from managing ad sales. His new boss from Globecom is twenty-seven year old inexperienced hotshot Carter Duryea (Topher Grace, "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!") who reassures Dan that he'll be an 'excellent wing man' "In Good Company."
Writer/director Paul Weitz ("About a Boy," with former co-director, brother Chris, staying in the production office) takes a sharp-eyed look at the soullessness of today's corporate America, but blunts his own edge with an unrealized romantic subplot. "In Good Company" (formerly titled "Synergy") is on a par with the Weitz's last film, "About a Boy," an entertaining commercial picture where one morally mature male mentors another of his sex.
Weitz follows his formula of intercutting the contrasting lives of his subjects. Dan is a family man ensconced in a lived-in suburban Colonial while Carter's ambition is deep sixing his seven month marriage to Kimberly (Selma Blair, "Hellboy"), lived in a minimalist urban cube. Carter signs his divorce papers while Dan remortgages his house for his daughter's dream of attending NYU. Dan works out the old fashioned way while Carter plugs into expensive, stationary equipment (his character's metamorphosis is visually represented at film's conclusion with him jogging on the beach). Carter recognizes Dan's real values, something alien to his Globecom 'mentor' Steckle (Clark Gregg, "Spartan"), and begins to romance Alex in his desire for what Dan has, even while also recognizing his own behavior is unbecoming. It is this conflict that lacks definition, in addition to the badly drawn character of Alex, who should have her father's values instilled but instead takes actions, like seducing her father's boss, that drive the plot. The climatic business confrontation and its aftermath are also a little too neat, a Hollywood dose of feel good.
Dennis Quaid gives a rooted performance, painting Dan as a decent everyman struggling to do the right thing while providing for a family. He's a fifty-one year old facing the birth of a new child (that pregnancy test was his wife's) just as his eldest is abandoning the nest and he is fiercely protective of his family. Topher Grace, a very good young actor, is a little too cleanly scrubbed to be entirely believable as a corporate dynamo, but of course, that's the point. He spins Carter as the type of kid who was motivated to succeed in school and has taken the 'good grade' approach to the real world. He's gone after the Ivy League 'right' things (his wife included) even though he gets no emotional fulfillment from them (his misguided desires are illustrated in a funny scene at a Porsche dealership).
Scarlett Johansson can do little to make Alex's motivations understandable, although she does her part in projecting the warmth in the father/daughter relationship. Warmth and humor also enliven Marg Helgenberger's (TV's "CSI") light portrayal of Ann Foreman. David Paymer ("Alex & Emma") is sympathetic as sad-eyed worker drone Marty who reacts to his firing with grace whereas Kevin Chapman ("Ladder 49") as Lou is Weitz's obvious contrast, a Dan 'hire' whose blow-up upon his firing is the epitome of burning bridges. Malcolm McDowell ("The Company") is a cliche spouting talking head as Globecom's CEO while in an equally small role, Philip Baker Hall ("Bruce Almighty") represents the old way of doing business by building personal relationships.
"In Good Company" may be a little too evenly balanced, always showing the contrast between its two protagonists, but its functional Foreman family is an American dream worth aspiring to. If only the nice guys didn't finish last...
Robin gives "In Good Company" a C+.
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