Monday, December 01, 2008

The Promotion

The Promotion (Steve Conrad, 2008) [5]

Conrad gets some points for his story and the portrayal of its characters but The Promotion just isn't consistently funny enough to recommend. The film snakes its way between sly humor, broader slapstick and tender, humanizing moments that never seem to give the viewer or the film a foot to stand on. Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly play two men vying for a managerial post of a new supermarket opening. Scott is the uptight assistant manager who appears to be a shoe-in for the post until Reilly's character, playing a Canadian interloper shows up. A series of hi jinks ensue which get increasingly competitive and play the two directly against each other. These are characters that work because Conrad has a keen sense of observation and is never patronizing towards them. Both Scott and Reilly's characters are people with flaws but the film never uses them to be laughed at. One of the films stronger suits is that Conrad recognizes that these guys are in pretty thankless jobs in a stale, restrictive corporate culture where the acts of sabotage they commit are a form of release from the constant drudgery of their lives. Reilly's character is a recovering addict now addicted to self-help tapes but instead of laughing at his glibness, you end up sympathizing with him. Scott's character is the more unlikable of the two but still, the film does enough for you to recognize why he's doing the things he does. The flaw in the system comes from the all over the map nature of the film. Conrad creates characters and a story so enmeshed in an unfunny corporate world that it's hard to really make this a comedy. As someone who has had experience in the retail world, they're not exactly the best jobs in the world. If the film was just broad slapstick humor, it might have worked better because it doesn't bring up all the rotten elements of working in the service sector. The problem may be that since the characters and their world are all too bleakly real, a lot of the humor gets sucked out of the picture. As a comedy, The Promotion doesn't quite cut, or if you're Canadian, crack it.

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