'In Good Company' movie: Reliable cast helps to lift well-intentioned but timid social 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 (which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay), Paul Weitz is hardly the type of talent one would expect to find behind a socially conscious movie about a ruthless corporate takeover. But rest assured, despite its business-dog-eats-business-dog setting, In Good Company is anything but heavy drama – or even biting satire.
At its moral center, 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.
Unexpected 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 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.
Carter and Dan's 18-year-old daughter, the independent-minded college student Alex (Scarlett Johansson), begin an affair without Dan's knowledge. And if that weren't enough, both Dan and Carter will soon have to deal with more unexpected upheavals in the corporate world.
'In Good Company' 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. However, unlike the obnoxiously manipulative About a Boy, in which Hugh Grant becomes a Real Man once he awakens his long-dormant 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. Those two actors play off of each other remarkably well, while bringing a level of warmth and truth 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 honest 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.
In Good Company movie cast info via the IMDb.
Images of Scarlett Johansson, Topher Grace, and Dennis Quaid in In Good Company: Universal Pictures.
“In Good Company Movie: Dennis Quaid & Topher Grace Lift Demure Social Comedy” last updated in January 2019.