Review: The Promotion
Review: I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t it a wee bit soon for them to be rehashing the Dane Cook-Jessica Simpson soulraper that was EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH? Well, fret not; THE PROMOTION is the exact opposite of that movie. Mainly in that it doesn’t make you want to commit hara kiri, but also because it’s a nice under-the radar comedy with great performances and a little heart.
Writer/director Steve Conrad, who penned THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS and the Nic Cage toupee showcase THE WEATHER MAN, handles the funny with a natural ease. However, the man’s strong character-driven and dramatic roots are equally evident in THE PROMOTION. Both Doug and Richard are written as genuinely good guys with very real reasons for needing the job. It’s an effective approach to get you involved in the film, and rooting for both characters creates an interesting dynamic that sets it apart from the plethora of other similarly plotted movies.
While the humor is fairly grounded in serious situations (except maybe for Doug’s unseen neighbors, whose pastimes include gay sex and banjo playing—simultaneously), THE PROMOTION is a comedy first and foremost. Things rarely escalate to wacky hijinx or lowbrow pranks like you might expect from a Guy A vs. Guy B movie, but the character interactions provide for plenty of amusement. The jokes are more of the chuckle variety, with a handful of big laughs thrown in. (A couple courtesy of an all-too-short Jason Bateman cameo.) A good chunk of the film also focuses on the inner workings of a grocery store, which may seem like the least interesting thing since wool socks, but proves to be a fertile ground for comic satirizing. (Think OFFICE SPACE meets Harris Teeter.)
THE PROMOTION mainly hinges on the surprisingly fun duo of Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly. Scott plays Doug entirely straight—opting for a goody-two-shoes approach in place of Stifler—and does a pretty decent job of it. The weight of his previous roles makes it a little weird at first, but I quickly stopped expecting the guy to drink bodily fluids and got behind his character’s situation. Reilly, on the other hand, has made a welcome break in to comedy over the past few years, and as great a dramatic actor as he is, this is where he belongs. As drug addict turned family man Richard, there’s so many hilarious little things that build his character, like a shifty Canadian accent or his adherence to self-help tapes. There's a scene that's just Reilly’s facial expressions reacting for a solid half minute that's grows exponentially funnier as each second passes.
Together the two men play well off each other with a nice sense of combative chemistry between them. The Office’s Jenna Fischer and indie-darling Lili Taylor also provide some female support. Their roles aren’t huge but their presence is what drives the two main characters for the majority of the film. And Lord knows I’d crawl a mile through broken glass to cuddle up with Pam Beesley.
While it’s a thoroughly enjoyable film, I don’t know if it’s broad enough to be a crossover mainstream hit (or quirky enough to appeal to the JUNO hipster crowd). So THE PROMOTION probably won’t be running the company this summer, but it definitely gets a raise for solid effort and an interesting approach.
THE PROMOTION sees a limited release on June 6th.