This year we have seen two massively huge duds featuring Dennis Quaid and we most likely have one more on the way, but Quaid is saving his best for last. In the new film In Good Company he is all but impressive. His performance alone will wash away your memories of apocalyptic blizzards, broken down airplanes, and definitely make you forget The Alamo.
Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is the head of marketing for Sports America magazine. When the magazine’s parent company is sold to a conglomerate, Dan is demoted and a young cell phone wiz, Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), is put in his place. Carter is a workaholic who has just been left by his wife (Selma Blair) and can’t seem to find any meaning in his life other than his work. Dan is an old cow that can’t seem to go out to pasture, and also can’t afford to; what with his wife Ann (Marg Helgen Berger) expecting a third child and his oldest daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) starting classes at NYU. After a long work day, on a Sunday, Carter leaches on to Dan and heads home for dinner with the Foreman family. Alex and Carter soon strike up a relationship behind Dan’s back, as Carter and Dan slowly begin to work together more while corporate cutbacks plague Sports America. Throughout, the two men have to deal with and realize what is most important in their lives, both professionally and personally.
This is a great flick. It’s witty, thought provoking, and has boat loads of charm. All of its high points come courtesy of writer/director Paul Weitz. He has written films like Antz! and Nutty Proffessor II: The Klumps and directed films like American Pie and Down to Earth, but since About a Boy Weitz truly has become a tour de force in cinema. In In Good Company, he creates rich characters and has them in very real situations. It’s great to watch. When we are introduced to Carter, he is giving a presentation on cell phones for five year olds. There is a style of humor there that makes him ahead of his time, because honestly it is only a matter of time before marketing reps actually start doing half the stuff here. For now it’s just a pleasure to giggle away at.
Dennis Quaid has never been better. Once Dan starts to get downsized, he almost becomes pathetic. Quaid is charismatic, and watching him as an average Joe getting a screw job from the suits is hypnotizing, because while he’s getting stepped on at work he’s hysterically laying his foot down at home, scaring away potential suitors to his thirteen year old daughter. Topher Grace is miles ahead of Ashton Kutcher in making the cinematic jump from “That 70's Show”. Carter has many idiosyncrasies and Grace hits all of them easily. He’s impressive here. If we didn’t buy his “Carter” then whatever happens to Quaid’s “Dan” would be pointless and highly uninteresting to watch. As for Scarlett Johansson, I never got why people thought she was hot. I mean she is remotely good looking. Then I saw this movie. Now I totally get it. Whatever Weitz did, I don’t know, but damn! Scarlett Johansson is hotter than the deepest lava filled pits of hell located several miles below the surface of the sun. And her acting chops.....make her even hotter. I melted at the site of her on screen, and every time she had a scene with a nervous Carter, I felt those nerves, and every time she warmed up to Daddy, I had this feeling that Quaid was going to kick the living piss out of me. All three have never been more perfectly cast.
In Good Company is one of the best movies I have seen this year. It’s got it all; compelling drama, lots of laughs, and an excellent cast. This holiday season, if you want to avoid all the massively big budgeted blockbusters and the awards pandering limited releases, then you must go and check it out. You won’t see anything else more cleverly produced this year. It’s a shame it doesn’t arrive till nearly New Year’s.