‘In Good Company’ movie: Capable cast helps to lift well-intentioned but timid socially conscious 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 type 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 2004 movie 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 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), 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 (Topher Grace). Adding insult to injury, Carter is a mere 26 years old – or about half Dan’s age.
Personal & corporate upheavals
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.
And as if all of that weren’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 if that wasn’t enough, both Dan and Carter will soon have to deal with more unexpected upheavals in the corporate world.
‘In Good Company’: Movie much too concerned with mainstream sensibilities
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 obnoxiously manipulative About a Boy, in which Hugh Grant becomes a Real Man once he unearths his deep-buried father instincts and discovers the joys of monogamy, In Good Company turns out to be a surprisingly agreeable dramatic-comedy peppered with moments of genuine humor and pathos.
Greatly helping matters are 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 bringing 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 sunny finale fails to dispel the many authentic moments In Good Company has to offer.
In Good Company (2004)
Dir. and Scr.: 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. Frankie Faison. Zena Grey.
Images of Scarlett Johansson, Topher Grace, and Dennis Quaid in In Good Company: Universal Pictures.
In Good Company movie cast info via the IMDb.
“In Good Company Movie: Dennis Quaid & Topher Grace Lift Demure Socially Conscious Comedy” last updated in May 2019.