Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Promotion (Review)

The Promotion

“Competition in academia is so vicious because the stakes are so small.” That quote (credited to everyone from Woodrow Wilson to Henry Kissinger) pretty much sums up this film about a cut throat struggle for a corporate grocery store manager position in the Chicagoland area. Unfortunately this one should have either been a whole lot funnier or a whole lot more vicious. With a cast featuring Seann William Scott, John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer and Fred Armisen one would expect the former and there are some really funny moments. More of the film though, feels like a first draft of a Mike White screenplay teetering on the dark comedy edge but with characters who aren’t really flawed enough to make for solid schadenfreude.

Scott is the assistant to Armisen’s manager at the outset and when a new store opens up in their chain Armisen says he’s a shoe-in. The wrench in the works come a few days later in the form of Reilly (in his lovable loser mode), another AM who has transferred from a sister company in Canada in order to try for a new life with his Scottish immigrant wife played by Lili Taylor. This makes for some truly awful accent play that seems to change from scene to scene. They both apply for the job and the rest of the film takes place as they compete for the spot. It starts out and simple competition and then things get a little nastier and the characters for frustrated at every little thing that goes wrong. The whole thing ends in a kind of bland détente that fails inspire enjoyment. Scott and his on screen fiancée Jenna Fischer though have great chemistry and it’s a shame that they don’t have more of that screen time together.

Chicago has never looked worse on film. This isn’t a criticism, there are certain parts of cities that are just not photogenic (the Philly shown in Unbreakable) and when filmed in flat lighting it does add to the drabness of the whole piece. But even the scenes downtown aren’t anything to write home about. Poster isn't bad though.

I'm not sure why they lead the trailer with one of the worst swing and a miss jokes in the film - the black apple bit. Over all this one is more rotten than fresh and I can’t recommend seeing it in the theater. A slow Saturday afternoon on cable? Sure.