In Good Company (9/10)

by Tony Medley

The first time I remember seeing Dennis Quaid was in “The Big Easy” (1987) in which he played a charming, laid back New Orleans Detective. I liked him. I saw him subsequently, and liked him but he didn’t really strike a chord with me after that. Then came 2004 and his disastrous first three films. True, the material was awful the directing awful, and the scripts awful, but Dennis was awful. I’m not sure that Lawrence Olivier could have done much with the material, but Dennis sure didn’t.

In “In Good Company,” however, Dennis has finally found good material, and a fantastic director-writer in Paul Weitz, who directed “About a Boy,” which I thought was one of 2002’s two best films. This is a biting commentary on avaricious corporate takeover giants, embodied in Teddy K (an uncredited Malcolm McDowell), a wild-eyed, stray-haired behemoth who treats companies like ants as he buys and sells them at will, with no regard for the employees who are the people who create the value of the companies.

Dan Foreman (Quaid) is director of the sales department when his company is acquired by Teddy K. Carter Duryea (Topher Grace) is a 26 year old, ambitious employee of one of Teddy’s other companies who is brought in to take over Dan’s job, so Dan, at 52, finds himself working for youthful, inexperienced Carter. To make matters worse, Carter develops a crush on Dan’s daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johansson). The result is an old-fashioned screwball comedy in the best tradition of Howard Hawks, George Cukor, and Leo McCarey.

What makes this work is absolutely superlative acting by Quaid and Grace. The script is humorous, but it’s the acting that turns it into a laugh riot. There were several scenes that had me rollicking with deep belly laughs. But when I thought of the lines, they were cute, but not that funny. No, it was the way they were delivered and acted by Quaid and Grace that turns this into a movie that will still be making people laugh 60 years from now, much as “Bringing Up Baby” (1938), “The Awful Truth” (1937),  and all the other screwball comedies of the ‘30s and ‘40s still do today.

Topher Grace is a talent to be reckoned with. To me he is Cary Grantesque, which is as high praise as I can conceive. Dennis Quaid should learn a lesson from this film. He is a wonderfully gifted comedic actor. With a smile that people would die for, I hope he continues along the comedy path and forgets serious roles like he took in the turkeys “The Day After Tomorrow,” “The Alamo”, and “Flight of the Phoenix.”

I walked out of this film feeling happy with a big smile on my face. What more can you ask of a movie?

January 20, 2005

The End