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Great cast chemistry puts film among great company

Chris Kepner | Monday, January 17, 2005

“In Good Company” is a new comedy from Paul Weitz, whose past efforts include “American Pie” and “About a Boy.” Compared to his earlier comedic efforts, you can certainly expect a level of seriousness from this latest work, which opened in theaters Friday.Dennis Quaid (“The Alamo,” “Cold Creek Manor”) stars as Dan Foreman, the 51-year-old head of ad sales for SportsAmerica magazine. He’s a good boss, well-liked by his employees and finishing up the best year of sales they’ve ever had. Enter Carter Duryea, played by Topher Grace (“That 70s Show,” “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!”). Carter is a 26-year-old executive on the rise in the Globecom Corporation, an absurdly large conglomerate that deals in everything from cell phones to breakfast cereal, and which has just purchased SportsAmerica.Carter is appointed to take over Dan’s job, and Dan is demoted to Carter’s “wingman.” Though everyone thought he would certainly be fired, Carter sees potential in Dan and decides to keep him on. The whiz kid with no prior experience in ad sales is now in charge of the veteran of over two decades. This creates a very interesting situation, and Weitz milks the humor from it successfully, but with tasteful discretion. A less talented director could have easily overdone it.A new twist is introduced when Carter falls for Dan’s daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson), a rather unexpected departure from the old cliché of sleeping with the boss’s daughter. Don’t let yourself be fooled, however, into believing that this is a romantic comedy. The love affair acts merely as a subplot in the development of Carter and Dan’s unlikely friendship.A couple of lost accounts later, Globecom’s bottom-line philosophy forces Carter to make cut after cut in the staff of SportsAmerica, a staff that Dan had been responsible for hiring and training. They were not only good workers, but his friends as well. Dan offers up his own job to save those of his workers, but Carter quickly reminds him of his desperate need to stay employed for the sake of his family. With the news of his wife’s unexpected pregnancy and a second mortgage taken out in order to send Alex to NYU, Dan simply cannot afford to stop working.Through all of this adversity, a mutual respect develops between Carter and Dan which eventually blossoms into a special friendship.For Quaid and Grace, the roles they play in the film parallel their film careers. Quaid is the veteran, having appeared in over fifty films since 1975. Moviegoers have known of his talents for some time now, and they shouldn’t be disappointed by his performance here.Topher Grace is the newcomer, the young punk on the scene whose skill as an actor is only beginning to be recognized by the majority of Hollywood. “In Good Company” is his sixth film since playing Eric Foreman on the TV series “That 70s Show.” His acting in this film is superb and he develops a wonderful chemistry with Quaid, playing off their father/son dynamic.Despite a couple of stale moments with obvious dialogue, “In Good Company” is a well-written film that is genuinely funny.