Just in time for Christmas, a family comedy about...revenge? That’s the driving force behind Joe Scheffer (Tim Allen), a quiet, unassertive single father who has been stuck with the same low-level video communications job for more than a decade. His ex-wife (Kelly Lynch) has no regard for his feelings when she smooches with her new actor boyfriend and none of his life looks like it will ever get any better. On “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” Joe gets smacked around by the company bully (Patrick Warburton) over a space in the office parking lot. The man who didn’t think his life could get any more embarrassing now has to face the fact that he was beaten up in front of his twelve-year old girl (Hayden Panettiere).
So Joe strikes back. He launches an all-out war against his bully that begins with the promise of a rematch. Joe begins training with a has-been kung-fu actor (a fittingly bloated Jim Belushi, looking much like Steven Seagal). Soon, word gets out that someone is standing up to the bully (though no one ever takes the time to explain what else he has done to be labeled as the “bully”). All of a sudden, Joe’s the big man on campus. People know his name, he gets a much-deserved promotion, a company sedan, his own bully-free parking space, and all kinds of opportunities are opened up for him. Of course, everything happens within a matter of days. It’s at this point that the film switches gears from being slightly unpleasant to simply contrived.
One of the earliest problems comes from the casting of Allen. He has always seemed to be the type of guy who says what is on his mind. He puts his thoughts into actions and that was how people connected to him through his comedy and his persona on “Home Improvement.” He isn’t so much tough as he is potentially tough. There is a definite threat behind this man’s eyes. Maybe that assumption comes from the actor’s felonious past or because the man has a good squint. As Joe morphs into a take-charge guy, I found the casting to be more acceptable. When I heard Joe make a statement, I knew he meant it. As a result, the romantic storyline between Joe and a corporate guidance counselor named Meg (Julie Bowen) grows rather nicely. Bowen (From the hit TV show, “Ed”) is charming as the obligatory romantic interest.
But whose bright idea was it to release a film like Joe Somebody for the holidays, anyway? This is a time for happiness, good spirits, and hope. When your movie begins with a meek video editor being assaulted in the middle of a parking lot, there is only so much chance for the rest of the story. Luckily, the film turns out to be a fairly uplifting piece of vanilla. The advertising in connection with the film itself reminds me very much of the way Shallow Hal was handled. We are led to believe that it is going to be an uproarious comedy when it is, in fact, a lighthearted message-movie that has some comedic moments sprinkled in. On first viewing, you might be tempted to brand Joe Somebody laugh-less because you have been mislead.
If movies can be good for one thing, it is to teach us something. In the long run, I walked away from Joe Somebody somewhat enlightened by the message that being assertive could open up new doors for you. Sure, many of the scenes are eye-rollers to the fullest, but the movie held my interest. Joe Scheffer is a good man. But Joe Somebody is far from a good movie.