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Company Man

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Company Man

Starring: Doug McGrath, Sigourney Weaver
Director: Peter Askin
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 81 Minutes
Release Date: March 2001
Genre: Comedy




Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

When I reviewed the worst comedy of the year 2000--"An Everlasting Piece," a political satire like this one--I received a nasty e-mail from its scripter and principal actor, Barry McEvoy, who said: "I'm disappointed. What I wanted to do was to make a film that was original. I wanted to make a film that dealt with the issues in Northern Ireland in a way that was brave and unlikely. Obviously what I was getting at was either a complete failure or wasted on you." "An Everlasting Piece," whose writer uses humor purportedly to show the irrationality of friction between people of different ethnic groups, may have had his heart in the right place, but virtually every sally fell flat, mired in its utter banality and predictability. Now along comes a film that purports to satirize American politics in the way Mr. McEvoy sent up the politics of Northern Ireland. "Company Man" exceeds even McEvoy's work in its pointlessness, its vapidity, its unequivocal grade-school humor. Not a single gag works. "Company Man" must simply have been an embarrassing experience for the fine ensemble of actors who look so confounded by its emptiness that one hopes they at least had a good time clowning around with its frantic physicality and witless waggery. Incredibly, the screenplay was co-written by a man from whom we expected more, Douglas McGrath, who also penned the rich and stunning 1994 bauble "Bullets Over Broadway," about a serious 1920s playwright who sells out when offered a chance to direct his latest work on Broadway.

Nothing's wrong with the premise. "Company Man" intends to deride the travesty of the U.S.-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion designed to overthrow the Castro government during the early 1960s and even to segue into the Vietnam debacle to prove that in the of foreign policy our government hadn't learned from experience. But the punch lines are so ungainly that audience members who are good sports enough to sit through the mercifully brief picture might actually hope for some TV-style laugh track to save the actors the chagrin of pausing and hearing only silence to reward their aspirations to amusement. Would you find the statement coming from a high government official "good press is more important than human life" particularly striking and original? Or, when Alan Cumming in the role of ex-Cuban president Batista, talks about materials used to decorate his palace which came from the Shah of Iran, says, "Do you know the Shah--very nice man," do you congratulate yourself for being clever enough to catch the inside political humor? If so, this could be the picture for you.

The plot revolves around the CIA's hiring of a milquetoast, Greenwich Connecticut high-school grammar teacher (Douglas McGrath in the role of Allen Quimp) to head up a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. He is retained because--as he himself realizes--he would be the least likely person to be identified as a spy. Unfortunately, because of his need to impress the community with his importance, he reveals his secret identity to his wife Daisy (Sigourney Weaver) who in no time informs everyone in the town. Daisy, a bourgeois matron who longs for a bigger house and a restaurant table that is not adjacent to the kitchen, sees a chance for her own 15 minutes of fame. She will write a scathing novel based on her husband's heroism in his battle against the forces of Communism that have overtaken Havana.

Attempts by Denis Leary as a cynical officer stationed in Cuba and by Ryan Phillipe as a Russian dancer who is able to defect when a high school student in a drivers' education program zooms away from a KGB agent do nothing to save this movie. John Turturro, acting in his standard macho role by repeatedly rehearsing his plan to eradicate the Cuban leader, mirrors Mr. McGrath's customary correction of the grammatical errors of the colleagues he meets in his new job in the Central Intelligence Agency. Feel free to skip the film and get your evening's superior entertainment by parsing sentences.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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