Paramount // 2001 // 81 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // September 21st, 2001
International intelligence just got dumber.
A star-studded cast and an interesting premise was not enough in the case of Company Man, a madcap romp that ends up only qualifying as disgruntled at best. This film came and went so fast I never noticed it the first time around, and apparently I was not alone. Sometimes such films gain a new life on DVD, and we're happy to find these hidden gems and pass them along to the public. I only wish that was the case here, as poor writing, poorly drawn characters and lukewarm humor spoils what might have been a really funny film. Paramount does a fine job with the picture and sound, but once more releases a bare bones disc.
Allen Quimp (Douglas McGrath) is the last person in the world anyone would take as a spy; he's a nerd with an obsession with proper grammar and doesn't hesitate to correct anyone and everyone. His shrew of a wife (played by Sigourney Weaver) keeps him downtrodden and wishing he had more time alone. When he is confronted with his deficiencies as a husband and a human being, he finally breaks and tells a little lie that goes out of control. That lie was that he was really an agent for the CIA, and since only someone so bland as he could go unnoticed, they believe him. Soon everyone "knows" he works for the CIA, and he finds himself helping a Russian ballet dancer defect, which leads to his actually becoming an agent in truth. He is shuffled off to a backwater post where nothing is likely to happen, hopefully to be forgotten. But this is 1959, and the post is Cuba, just in time for the revolution. His fellow agents include Officer Fry (Denis Leary) and their boss Lowther (Woody Allen). Remember all those cockamamie schemes to depose Castro, like making his beard fall out? Now we know how the CIA could have been so stupid.
Telling the plot of the film makes it sound promising, as it did when I started watching. I kept waiting for things to get better, but by the halfway mark, I'd already seen the best the film had to offer. There are a few funny gags, such as Quimp correcting Fry's grammar to the point of insanity, resulting in Fry turning himself in as a double agent just to get away from him. Alas, there isn't much to add to that in the compliment department.
But let's say I'm wrong and this film was a real hoot. Would you want the DVD? Well, maybe. The picture is a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, and befitting a new film that hasn't gotten much playtime, it looks great. Colors are rendered well, the level of detail is sharp, and the image is very clear. The sound is a mere 2-channel mix, which doesn't add or really detract from the ho-hum proceedings. Dialogue is clear, music cues work, but this isn't an active mix. As usual with Paramount (the recent Forrest Gump disc notwithstanding), the only extra content is a trailer.
That was the good stuff. It all goes downhill from here. The only characters that aren't cartoonishly bad are Quimp himself, who is so bland and low-key that he rarely makes a joke work, and Woody Allen who is, well...Woody Allen, the same nebbish he always plays. Sigourney Weaver is such a cartoon cutout they should have cast Betty Boop instead. Only Denis Leary threatens to create some real emotion, but he's gone all too soon.
The fine premise (basically a twist on The Man Who Knew Too Little) fizzles as poor setup leads to lost opportunity. The film doesn't seem coherent, only a series of jokes and skits that almost never work. It isn't to say there isn't a chuckle or two to be found, but for the most part I only groaned. I hoped it would get better, but it got worse instead. It's hard to justify the time spent on the film, even if you were to see it for free.
Fans of the film (if you're out there) will probably like the DVD, since it has a fine picture and good sound. At $29.95 it's hard to justify the cost for a bare bones disc, but we're used to that from Paramount. Ultimately, the film is the thing, and I can't recommend it to anyone.
Guilty! The court finds the film guilty of wasting talented actors in a fruitless enterprise. The sentence is suspended, with the offending parties paying court costs for the time wasted watching the film.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13