- In Good Company (2004) review: The spot-on characterizations of leading men Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace greatly enhance Paul Weitz’s well-meaning but bottom-line-oriented comedy-drama that is reminiscent of socially conscious classics and near-classics like The Devil and Miss Jones and Desk Set.
- In Good Company synopsis: Veteran Sports America Head of Ad Sales Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is demoted and replaced with Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), an ambitious (yet amiable) corporate go-getter about half his age. It gets worse: Dan’s wife is pregnant, while his willful daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johansson), begins dating Carter.
Better known for his gross-out comedy American Pie and for co-directing with brother Chris Weitz the manipulative, reactionary morality tale About a Boy (Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award nominee, 2002), Paul Weitz is hardly the kind of talent one would expect to find behind In Good Company, a socially conscious tale about the ways and means of a ruthless corporate takeover.
Now, rest assured that despite its business-dog-eats-business-dog setting, the well-intentioned In Good Company is anything but heavy drama – or, for that matter, biting satire. Instead, Weitz’s latest is reminiscent of Old Hollywood releases with both an office setting and a feel-good message.
Think Sam Wood’s The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), about labor and romantic relations at a department store; Richard Quine’s The Solid Gold Cadillac, which reaffirms the power of “we the (little) people”; Walter Lang’s Desk Set (1957), about the potential dangers – to the workforce – of automation; and, though in a more caustic vein, Alfred E. Green’s Baby Face (1933) and, more recently, David Swift’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967), both focusing on unorthodox (but all too common) methods of moving up the socioeconomic ladder.
In Good Company plot: Globecom vs. the world
At its moral core, In Good Company has the aptly named Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), all-American middle-aged family man and the soon-to-be-ex-head of ad sales for the New York-based magazine Sports America.
Right after Dan tries to arrange a deal with an important Los Angeles client (Philip Baker Hall), he discovers that the magazine has been taken over by Globecom, a gigantic multinational ruled by Corporate Emperor Teddy K (A Clockwork Orange veteran Malcolm McDowell).
Dan is demoted and his spacious office is given to Sports America’s new second-in-command, the prodigious overachiever Carter Duryea (Topher Grace). Adding insult to injury, Carter is a mere 26 years old.
Personal & corporate upheavals, 21st-century style
Inevitably, Carter and Dan clash from the get-go, partly because of Dan’s bruised ego, partly because Dan does business the “old-fashioned way”: He believes his company has a good product to offer and he tries to build personal relationships with his clients. Carter, for his part, is obsessed with synergy; his goal is to turn Sports America into an ad venue for the conglomerate’s other products, which range from crunchy snacks to dinosaur-shaped cell phones.
There’s more: Dan, the father of two teenage girls, learns that his wife, Ann (Marg Helgenberger), is expecting another child.
Things surely couldn’t get any worse.
But they do.
Without Dan’s knowledge, Carter and Dan’s 18-year-old daughter, the independent-minded college student Alex (Scarlett Johansson), begin an affair.
And as if that wasn’t enough, both Dan and Carter will soon have to deal with more unexpected upheavals in the corporate world.
Does In Good Company sound gritty?
Maybe it does, even though it’s anything but.
Paul Weitz, who also wrote the screenplay, has come up with another featherweight morality tale. What’s different this time around is that unlike About a Boy, in which Hugh Grant becomes a Real Man once he unearths his deep-buried fatherly instincts and discovers the joys of monogamy, the amiable In Good Company is, however surprisingly, peppered with moments of genuine humor and pathos.
That’s in large part thanks to Dennis Quaid and, particularly, Topher Grace as, respectively, the corporate dinosaur and the corporate barracuda. These two actors play off of each other remarkably well, while imparting a level of warmth and honesty to their characters that goes way beyond what is required either by the script or by Weitz’s at times clunky direction.
Indeed, Quaid and Grace are so good – and so is Malcolm McDowell in a cameo as a Rupert Murdoch-ish corporate ogre – that even the absurdly contrived finale fails to dispel the many authentic moments In Good Company has to offer.
In Good Company (2004) cast & crew
Direction & Screenplay: Paul Weitz.
Dennis Quaid … Dan Foreman
Topher Grace … Carter Duryea
Scarlett Johansson … Alex Foreman
Marg Helgenberger … Ann Foreman
David Paymer … Morty
Clark Gregg … Steckle
Philip Baker Hall … Eugene Kalb
Selma Blair … Kimberly
Frankie Faison … Corwin
Ty Burrell … Enrique Colon
Kevin Chapman … Lou
Amy Aquino … Alicia
Zena Grey … Jana
Colleen Camp … Receptionist
Enrique Castillo … Hector
John Cho … Petey
Miguel Arteta … Globecom Technician
Malcolm McDowell … Globecom CEO Teddy K (uncredited)
Cinematography: Remi Adefarasin.
Film Editing: Myron Kerstein.
Music: Stephen Trask.
Producers: Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz.
Production Design: William Arnold.
Costume Design: Molly Maginnis.
Production Company | Distributor: Universal Pictures.
Running Time: 104 min.
Country: United States.
“In Good Company (2004): Well-Acted But Demure Social Dramedy” notes
Socially conscious Old Hollywood
 In The Devil and Miss Jones, Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Charles Coburn (actually, the film’s male lead) plays a mega-rich department store owner passing for a shoe clerk so he can figure out how to prevent his employees – among them store clerk Jean Arthur and recently fired agitator Robert Cummings – from unionizing. Until, that is, the millionaire is introduced to a sweet-natured store clerk of a certain age, Spring Byington.
In The Solid Gold Cadillac, Judy Holliday stars as a small stockholder fighting the good fight at a gigantic corporation. In Desk Set, Katharine Hepburn and Joan Blondell are two among a group of office workers who may become the victims of automation.
In the recently restored Baby Face, Barbara Stanwyck uses her shapely legs and other feminine wiles – including a bit of blackmail and extortion – to climb up the corporate ladder, while in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Machiavellian window cleaner Robert Morse places himself on the fast track to self-made-manhood.
In Good Company awards & nominations
In Good Company and Dylan Kidd’s P.S. earned Topher Grace the National Board of Review’s Breakthrough Performer award.
In addition, Paul Weitz’s comedy-drama was one of the contenders for the 2005 Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear.
In Good Company movie credits via the American Film Institute (AFI) Catalog website.
Scarlett Johansson, Topher Grace, and Dennis Quaid In Good Company movie images: Universal Pictures.
“In Good Company (2004): Well-Acted But Demure Social Dramedy” last updated in December 2023.