Universal // 2004 // 110 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 2nd, 2007
From director Paul Weitz (About a Boy) comes a tale of regular people trapped in the corporate meat grinder and a hotshot young executive who gets punched in the eyeball.
Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid, Dragonheart) is a 23-year sales executive for Sports America, the leading sports magazine in the country. When a mega-corporation buys the company, Dan is faced with a dramatic change: he's demoted and now works under a young, ambitious executive named Carter Duryea (Topher Grace, That '70s Show).
To add more conflict, Dan has just found out that his wife (Marg Helgenberger, CSI) is pregnant and his college-aged daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) has started dating his new boss. Buckle up!
Here's a great little movie that I don't recall hearing much about. Paul Weitz, along with brother and co-writer Chris, continues to prove he has a knack for crafting reality-rooted "dramedies," films that can swing from laugh-out loud funny to satisfyingly melodramatic within minutes. This formula, honed in About a Boy, receives the American treatment here and the corporate dog-eat-dog world is a great scenario to stage their narrative.
The social commentary is rich and sharp, as we see the effects that anonymous, almost arbitrary, corporate horse-trading can have on regular people. It's certainly an incisive look into the unsavory bits of the political moving and shaking of mega-corporations, and having the mayhem focus reflected through the prism of Dan (forced to watch his old friends sacked one by one) and Carter (brazen and petrified at the firing responsibility laid on his shoulders) generates compelling stuff.
Dan and Carter drive the story forward, and even more engaging than the societal observations they leave in their wake is the tightly-concentrated look into how their personal lives intersect. Dan morphs into a legitimate father figure for Carter who, despite his business prowess and material successes, is lost. The Alex love story certainly throws a monkey wrench into the duo's relationship (and, actually, was borderline creepy in my opinion, but then again, she looks a lot like Scarlett Johansson) and the impact of the coupling has necessary dramatic reverberations, but when the film closes with a final face-to-face between the one-time antagonists that have suddenly become almost father-son in their dynamic, the emotional payoff is huge. Big props to Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid, each who treat their characters realistically. Quaid's Dan is a fossil in the new business age, but clings to his values and imparts them to the young up-and-comer. He's a realist and guards his emotions so it's not wordy, inspirational monologues for him. And Grace's Carter doesn't require that. As he says during that final meeting, Dan took the time to give him a hard time and teach him thing that were worth learning. The film doesn't wrap up in a nice neat bow and the solutions to both characters' challenges aren't presented on an ending title card -- but yet it closes on an extraordinarily high note. Despite a mild yuck factor and general discomfort of watching people's lives in constant flux, I do not hesitate to recommend In Good Company as a huge feel-good movie.
Nor would I hesitate to recommend the HD-DVD. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is smooth, boasting strong color levels and crisp detailing. The sprawling New York scenes are a pleasure to look at (as is Ms. Johannson). Weitz utilizes some close-up shots in the beginning to mark the tension between Carter and Dan when they first meet, and the level of detail was simply stunning; seriously, you can count the individual facial hairs on both actors...if, you know, you were so inclined. The 5.1 plus surround mixes are fine, but in a film like this, don't expect your system to get much of a workout. The same extras from the DVD special edition are present here, and while it's disappointing not to see any HD-specific bonus materials, what's provided is fine: Weitz and Grace deliver a heartfelt commentary, an okay making-of feature is broken up into seven separate parts (that spell SYNERGY) and, lastly, you'll get a batch of some worthwhile deleted scenes with optional director commentary.
A very good film boasts a new coat of hi-def paint. Dig the movie and if you have the means or inclination, get the full experience on HD-DVD.
The accused is...promoted!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Director's Commentary
* Seven-Part Making-of Featurette
* Deleted Scenes with Commentary
* Official Site