In Good Company is a pleasant mix of romantic comedy and corporate angst in the new millennium.
Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid, The Right Stuff) is a 51-year-old ad man for Sports America, one of the country's top sports magazines. Thanks to corporate raiders in pursuit of the magical buzzword "synergy," Dan's publishing company has been bought out by Globecom.
Globecom wants to expand its global reach; cell phones and boxed cereals can only get you so far, so now they're taking over other media and using cross-promotions to suck in customers from one line of business into another. It's kind of incestuous, but at least it'll make a buck.
One of Globecom's wiz kids is Carter Duryea (Topher Grace, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!), a 26-year-old who knows how to market cell phones to that rapidly emerging market, the under-5 set. Yes. Dinosaur-shaped cell phones that roar instead of ring.
With the takeover complete, Carter becomes Dan's boss and embarks on a mission to increase the magazine's ad revenue by an unheard of 20% while also cutting salary expenses by $300,000. In Good Company fleshes out the business storyline nicely with considerable heart and splendid performances from Grace, Quaid, and Scarlett Johansson (Girl With a Pearl Earring) as Dan's oldest daughter, Alex.
Mergers and acquisitions are coming back into fashion (witness Oracle's extremely hostile takeover of PeopleSoft, which in turn had bought out also-ran J.D. Edwards) and while some view them as a healthy trend in the business cycle, In Good Company points out some faulty logic. For example, if a company wants to act likes a sovereign country, as is the goal of Globecom CEO Freddy K. (Malcolm McDowell, The Company), then maybe the company should show concern for its citizens/employees and think about more than just the bottom line.
Alas, it is exactly that lack of concern—and imagination—that brings about these takeovers. Why reinvent the wheel and make something better when you can just buy somebody else's used cars and roll them into your own garage (and save all that money by firing the mechanics)? Why create growth when you can just buy it?
Naturally, Dan gets in trouble for asking too many questions (why would somebody buy a sports magazine to read about computers, anyway?) and Freddy, in true overpaid, mentally malnourished CEO fashion, spins off the answers as somebody else's responsibility: that of each and every other employee in the company.
Only the dull of senses and lame of brain would applaud such a fine, Astaire-esque tiptoe dance away from the issues at hand. Steckle (Clark Gregg, The Human Stain) is exactly that kind of party-line animal. Gung-ho and ready to trip over every word Freddy drops, he's precisely the kind of unquestioning drone managers adore.
Dan, in contrast, is a 20-year veteran at Sports America, and he's been there that long not because of a lack of ambition, but because of something far more important: he believes in the magazine and what it stands for. Is he a dinosaur or is he the voice of reason?
But there's more to In Good Company than the corporate scene.
There are some interesting choices that pop up in life. Those decisions that balance life and work have their price. Take, for example, Carter's imminent divorce from his wife of 7 months, Kimberly (Selma Blair, Hellboy). Apparently Kimberly took some offense at Carter's attachment to his cell phone during their honeymoon.
Things get more dicey between Carter and Dan when Carter starts to date Alex. She's one heck of a bright girl, though, as she starts up her college career at NYU, doing the unthinkable: a double major between creative writing and business. Carter, himself jolted a bit by the savagery of Globecom's latest takeover, tries to steer her clear of the business front, but to no avail. Sometimes a person just has to learn on their own.
With a new baby on the way, a daughter at NYU and another daughter doing her own part to stir things up, Dan doesn't have time for the politics and backstabbing of corporate life, but he copes the best he can.
So does Carter, who rises to the top a little too quickly. Here's a kid who buys a Porsche and then wrecks it in a fender bender literally on his way out of the lot. Based on his performance here, Grace seems to be getting groomed as heir apparent to Tom Hanks. He is in turns obnoxious, sweet, and awkward, but he's always funny and usually in an agreeable, understated fashion.
In Good Company, written and directed by Paul Weitz, best known for directing About a Boy and American Pie, finds its own balance between zingers about the state of working and dating in America.
The movie also finds just the right ending; it's not the typical happy ending for all, but one that has the bittersweet bite of reality to it.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.