- In Good Company (2004) movie review: The performances of leading men Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace greatly enhance Paul Weitz’s agreeable but bottom-line-oriented socially conscious dramatic comedy.
Better known for his gross-out comedy American Pie and for co-directing with brother Chris Weitz the syrupy morality tale About a Boy (nominated for the 2002 Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar), Paul Weitz is hardly the kind of talent one would expect to find behind a socially conscious tale about a ruthless corporate takeover. But rest assured, despite its business-dog-eats-business-dog setting, Weitz’s well-intentioned In Good Company is anything but heavy drama – or even biting satire.
Instead, it’s 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 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.
Globecom vs. the world
At its moral core, In Good Company has Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), all-American 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 Sports America has been taken over by Globecom, a gigantic multinational ruled by The Almighty Corporate Emperor Teddy K (Malcolm McDowell).
Dan is demoted and his spacious office is given to the new second-in-command at Sports America, the prodigious overachiever Carter Duryea (National Board of Review Breakthrough Performer Topher Grace). Adding insult to injury, Carter is a mere 26 years old – or about half Dan’s age.
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; in other words, he wants to turn Sports America into an ad venue for the conglomerate’s other products, which range from crunchy snacks to dinosaur-shaped cell phones.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Dan, the father of two teenage girls, discovers 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.
Concern for the sensibilities of mainstream audiences
Does In Good Company sound gritty?
Maybe it does, but in fact 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 the reactionary, manipulative 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, In Good Company is, however surprisingly, an amiable effort 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 and the embodiment of everything wrong with capitalism – that even the absurdly contrived finale fails to dispel the many authentic moments In Good Company has to offer.
In Good Company (2004)
Direction & Screenplay: Paul Weitz.
Cast: Dennis Quaid. Topher Grace. Scarlett Johansson. Marg Helgenberger. David Paymer. Philip Baker Hall. Clark Gregg. Malcolm McDowell. Selma Blair. Ty Burrell. Kevin Chapman. Colleen Camp.
“In Good Company Movie (2004) Review” 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 angry employees – among them supportive clerk Jean Arthur and recently fired agitator Robert Cummings – from unionizing. Until, that is, the millionaire is introduced to 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 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-manliness.
“In Good Company Movie” endnotes
Scarlett Johansson, Topher Grace, and Dennis Quaid In Good Company movie images: Universal Pictures.
“In Good Company Movie: Well-Acted But Demure Dramedy” last updated in September 2021.