Judge Maurice Cobbs is like the drummer from REO Speedwagon. Nobody knows who he is.
In order to get the girl, he's got to get his shift together.
I confess that my finger is often far, far from the pulse, so it should come as no surprise that I had no idea who Dane Cook was. That is until I got Employee of the Month in my hot little hands. Now I see him everywhere. Him, and that stupid SU-FI thing, the super-finger; how could I have not noticed something so pervasive before now? Frankly, it was disturbing. Not just disturbing that it existed in the first place, which mortifies me to the very root of my soul, but that it could be everywhere…Everywhere…and go completely unnoticed by me. Perhaps I'd tuned it out on some instinctive level; perhaps it triggered some ancient biological system of self-preservation engaged to keep my brain from exploding in disgust and dismay? Whatever the case, it seems that Dane Cook is here and he's here to stay, and maybe he'll stay long enough to grow out of mediocre offerings like Employee of the Month.
Facts of the Case
Dedicated slacker Zack (Dane Cook, Torque) has settled into a comfortable routine of avoiding work as much as possible, while on his job at the local SuperClub warehouse superstore. With his equally unenthusiastic coworker friends Lon (Andy Dick, Hoodwinked!), Iqbal (prolific voice actor Brian George), and Russell (Harland Williams, Dumb and Dumber), Zack is content passing his time at work goofing off in the group's secret hideout and ridiculing Vince (Dax Shepard, Idiocracy), the management favorite and Employee of the Month for a staggering seventeen months. Vince and his box boy sidekick Jorge (Efren Ramirez, Crank) wow customers with their flashy antics, but Zack could care less…that is, until the decidedly delicious cashier Amy (Jessica Simpson, The Dukes of Hazzard) transfers to the store. According to rumor, Amy only gets the hots for the Employee of the Month, and model employee Vince seems like a shoo-in? until Zack decides to get his shift together and win the coveted award and the girl for himself. Soon, the competition escalates to an all-out war, and Zack discovers that actually doing his job may be harder than he ever imagined.
Ah, those days long ago when Norm MacDonald exploded onto the cinema scene. Remember 1998's Dirty Work?
Of course you don't. I'll wager that in a year or so you'll have forgotten all about Employee of the Month as well.
Which is not to say the movie is exactly bad, you understand, but…extraordinarily average. Sure, it's got a giggle here and a guffaw there, but even Sinbad made me laugh once. Briefly. A very long time ago. This movie is far funnier than Sinbad, but hey—so is colon cancer. It's the sort of time-wasting movie experience that seems to be the studios' bread-and-butter these days. They don't challenge, they don't provoke, they don't question, they don't enlighten, they don't offend. They just exist, because hey—something has to fill the void on the video rental stores shelves. It's the kind of movie that's probably giving needed exposure and experience to the people involved, like first-time director Greg Coolidge, and up-and-coming comic stars Cook and Shepard, but is good for little else, except perhaps an excuse to consume copious amounts of popcorn.
I'll even go so far as to say that I hope that Dane Cook, whose savvy MySpace networking has apparently made him one of today's hottest stand-up comics, doesn't suffer the same fate as Norm MacDonald, relegated to floundering about in bit movie roles and uninspired sitcoms. This is my first exposure to Cook, but I suppose that his easy-going turn as the goldbricking Zack could hint at the potential for better things, should better things come along. I understand that his stand-up performances display a great deal more energy and personality, but none of that is in evidence here. Indeed, Zack seems more like just another supporting character than the star of the movie.
In fact, most of the cast seems confined by the material they're working with. Shepard, who was also seen last year in the deliriously unfunny Let's Go To Prison, amusingly plays the reigning Employee of the Month like a parody of Tom Cruise in Cocktail. Of course, it's always nice to see Ramirez, who has already wedged himself into American pop culture as Pedro Sanchez in the smash hit Napoleon Dynamite, even in an annoyingly uninspired role like this. Jessica Simpson, on the other hand, looking surprisingly normal (as opposed to the slutbag skank look she sported in The Dukes of Hazzard), is a bland non-entity as the much-coveted Amy, and has so little in the way of chemistry with Cook that you have to wonder why he even bothers—but given the decidedly adolescent spin of this film, there may be two good reasons a few inches under Simpson's dazzlingly vapid smile. It helps that the parts played by the rest of the cast are all so…familiar, especially if you've actually worked for one of these gigantic shoebox stores (I have); but even though the quirky supporting characters all get their fair amount of screen time, they are ultimately disappointing because nothing is ever really done with them.
Given the mediocrity of the film, it's no surprise that the special features deliver nothing particularly interesting; the assorted scraps culled from the cutting room floor are as bland and without substance as the movie itself. There is a somewhat interesting alternate opening sequence that features desperate housewife Eva Longoria as SuperClub's orientation director, but most of the not-so-special features material is limp, rejected ad-libbing. A short feature, At Work with Lon, also seems to be cobbled together from surplus footage, and there are two commentaries, one featuring Coolidge by himself, and the other featuring both Coolidge and Cook.
Employee of the Month, much like the movie's protagonist, is harmless enough, but tends to slack off just when it ought to be working hardest. There's nothing new or profound here, and the humor is quite safe, without ever coming near to the type of savage satire that it could have achieved, if they'd only been trying. But they weren't trying. A movie like this is predicated on being as generic and as safe as possible, and if you're expecting anything other than stale gags and recycled jokes, you'd better shop for it somewhere else.
Guilty. Sentenced to the work release program.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentaries with Dane Cook and Director Greg Coolidge
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