In Good Company. Paramount Classics presents a film written and directed by Paul Weitz. Running time: 110 minutes. Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexual situations and brief nudity). Starring Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, Philip Baker Hall, Zena Grey, Malcolm McDowell.

In Good Company

Note: this review was written for my school newspaper, which adheres to annoying standards of, like, journalism, so pardon the change in style and length (although minor changes have been made for the purposes of this site)

Sometimes, it can be fun to speculate on who the next "big thing," the next star on the level of Harrison Ford or Tom Cruise, is going to be. My money's on Topher Grace. Grace, best known as Eric on Fox's That 70's Show, has become equated with clumsy, befuddled characters, and that remains the case in Paul Weitz's In Good Company.

He plays Carter Dureya, a young hotshot businessman who, when his boss takes notice of his work on children's cell phones, is promoted to the head of ad sales at a major sports magazine. Of course, he has no experience in ad sales, so he latches on to Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), a 51-year-old ad executive who used to have Dureya's job. Dan does his best to accept the situation and his new boss, but things go too far when Carter starts dating his NYU-bound daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johansson, good as usual). His reaction upon finding out about the affair is the best scene in the movie.

Carter could have been an unbearable ass, pompus and self-absorbed. This never occurs, thanks largely to Grace's performance; you get the feeling that Carter knows just how ridiculous he sounds spouting nonsense business language like "synergy" and "paradigm." Surprisingly, the character proves to be largely sympathetic.

Even more surprising is that the film, with its seemingly clichéd sitcom set-up, manages to feel like something original. It is at once lightweight and substantial; the humor is quick-witted and simple, but the characters' relationships and emotions are handled with care and honesty. Better still, In Good Company doesn't end up going in the direction you would expect. It has a frankness about the cutthroat business world, and the ending highlights this cyncism.

Quaid, always an effective actor, makes Dan a real person, world-weary and working hard to support his family. But he is outshone at nearly every turn by Grace, whose charm and charisma make him an ideal candidate for superstardom.

In Good Company is not a great movie, or even a great comedy. At times, it can be a little obvious, and despite its best efforts never manages to make any sort of profound statement on life. But simplicity is not necessarily a truly damning characteristic, and if you're looking for a respite from the dark films of the holiday season, you could do a lot worse.

© 2005 Matt Noller, not that anyone would ever want to steal this