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Employee of the Month

How far will your average guy go, working the day shift at a bulk goods store, to get in the sack with a girl who looks like, say, Jessica Simpson. Try not to stretch your imagination too far. Throw together some typical insult comedy, toss in a very lukewarm romance and you can probably come up with something more enjoyable than Employee of the Month. Of course, you probably wouldn’t have the connections to land cast members like, say, Jessica Simpson. There, as you might guess, is the rub. Pop culture figures like Simpson, Andy Dick, Dax Shepard and Efren Ramirez (whom you’ll remember as Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite) are the only collateral this movie can claim. Employee of the Month's pseudo-protagonist Zack (Dane Cook) is a slacker’s hero. He lives with his grandmother, drives a pocket-bike, and the limited services he provides as a box boy at bulk store Super Club can only marginally be described as work. He loves his carefree life and isn’t remotely phased by taunts from overachieving, butt kissing, 17-time employee of the month cashier Vince (Dax Shepard) and his disturbingly affectionate protégé Jorge (Efren Ramirez).

All of that changes the day transferred employee Amy (Simpson) walks through the air conditioned breeze-way of the Super Club. Zack, immediately and most superficially smitten, uses his slacker’s resources to get into her personnel files and discovers she has a penchant for knocking boots with the employee of the month. It’s amazing how fast Zack’s outlook on job performance changes when gratuitous sex is involved.

What follows is a mostly mind-numbing, occasionally chuckle-worthy competition between Zack and Vince for Amy’s affection. That lasts fifteen minutes until it becomes pretty clear Amy has no interest in bagging the oblivious Vince, even if he has way more gold stars than Zack. When she begins paying flirtatious attention to Zack, and Zack discovers he actually likes the girl for more than her body, the focus shifts from a slacker’s pursuit of nookie to his quest for a little self-respect. It’s a noble switch, but I’d have been more impressed if he had been aspiring to something greater than Super Club’s fastest check-out dude.

The comedy tries to do to Wal-Mart what Office Space did to the corporate work place. It fails. Most of the time the script only makes a half-hearted effort and the comedy ends up wandering off into the realm of fart jokes and repetitive bits about the terrible eye-sight of the store’s optometrist, played by Andy Dick. You can actually feel Dick’s apathy as he repeats the same gags over and over.

The movie does score points for its mockery of the bulk-rate/low-price business model. An elderly woman struggles to drag a pine coffin off the second shelf, not because her husband is dead, but because she can’t pass up the price. Golden moments like that are overshadowed by lame attempts at “intelligent” humor. People literate enough to recognize the humor in two brothers named Glen Ross and Glen Gary aren’t likely to find it all that funny.

I could tantalize you with news that Jessica Simpson exposes herself in a very vulnerable manner. I could also tease you by reporting that when you see the parts of her anatomy that she shamelessly reveals, it becomes very clear that they’ve been enhanced to look bigger. If your mind has wandered somewhere below the neckline, you ought to be ashamed of yourself (though I couldn’t really blame you, given the fact that her body and not her acting skills seem to be the basis for Simpson being cast in a movie). No doubt due in part to the fact that Simpson’s father is one of the producers, the closest the movie comes to going topless is the lazy Zack dragging himself out of bed to go to work.. But for that, the film would otherwise have been better titled a National Lampoon project. For all the bulk products sold at the movie’s mock super store, there’s very little packaged into the Employee of the Month DVD. There are about ten minutes of bonus material and two so-so commentaries. Unless you enjoy hearing Harland Williams incoherently mutter his way through senseless ad libs or find director Greg Coolidge’s voice soothing and refreshing, there’s not much for you to peruse.

It’s kind of tough to imagine them adding anything in that would actually improve the viewing experience, unless for some reason some of the comedy was ad libbed and the actually funny takes weren’t used in the final cut. In fact, some of the scenes were ad libbed and some of the unused takes were included, but none of them are very funny and they get really old, really fast. You can only take listening to Harland Williams attempt with complete futility to humorously describe a man’s testicle exploding before finding yourself wanting to reach through the screen and strangle him.

Following the ad lib outtakes is a ridiculously short bonus feature where Andy Dick improvises his near-blind optometrist character interacting with clients. Despite the very short length, it still gets old less than a quarter of the way through.

The funniest thing on the entire DVD (including the movie itself) is an oddball item that has no reason to be on the disc at all. Apparently Dane Cook held a My Space style competition where people could submit their own funny videos. Three winners were chosen. For whatever reason only two could be included. One of them involves a guy wiring the horn on his friends’ car to the brake pedal, causing it to honk every time he tries to stop. Don’t miss it. It might actually help you not regret the three dollars you spent to rent the disc.

Director Greg Coolidge teams up with Dane Cook to record one of two commentaries. They spend most of the time good naturedly mocking each other and the actors or pointing out which extras they find attractive. It’s entertaining if you have nothing better to do, but it has nothing on a regular Dane Cook stand up session. The other commentary is Coolidge flying solo. He makes it sound like a regular director commentary, droning on in a manner that sort of makes you want to fall asleep. However, if you can keep your attention focused on what he’s actually saying, there are plenty of dry wit tidbits. For example, he spends some time explaining that Jessica Simpson convinced him of her acting skills with the performance in her acne commercials.

It’s a quick and dirty DVD release for a quick and dirty movie. Cheap laughs and silly comedy all around, its good for die hard Dane Cook fans or a really slow weeknight when you have absolutely nothing better to do.