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Review: Employee of the Month

Published October 5, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Lionsgate.
Employee of the Month Poster- Dane Cook Employee of the Month
Employee of the Month works against a huge deficit right away because the essential comic premise is flawed. The idea that any woman, whether gorgeous or fugly, would give a damn whether a prospective lover wins employee of the month is preposterous. Even people dedicated to their jobs may care about responsibility, but nobody would attach such value to a superficial contest

Employee of the Month Review

A comedy can be outrageous, and in most cases it should be. But it should still feel reasonable, like a writer discovered it from real observations, not like they just made it up. The most outrageous comedies still have a premise that makes sense, it’s just not realistic. Spoofs are different because they’re ripping on an existing formula. Even then, you take an oddball premise and commit to it with total sincerity, which isn’t what this movie does either.

Consider that pet detectives really exist, they just don’t solve crimes like people detectives do. But then, people detectives don’t work like movie detectives anyway. Going back to school is a real idea that people would consider. Juxtapose a billionaire with poor coeds, or send the hero all the way back and that’s comedy. Remaining celibate is rare but someone might choose to do it. So then you just up the age and run wild.

Even fantasy comedy makes sense metaphysically. You’ve got a day repeating itself and maybe there’s no explanation, but you can understand the idea. Sleeping with the winner of a work contest, no character, not even Homer Simpson, should hear that and think, “Hey, I know, I’ll just do exactly what she’s interested in because then I’ll sleep with her.” It should be a red flag that this is a made up character with no basis in anything.

Think about all those ‘80s comedies. The babes never said, “I’m going to go with whoever wins the contest at the end.” The point of the ski race or the drunk Olympics may have been to beat the A-hole at his own game, and that might have had the side effect of attracting the babe, but it was never, “I will sleep with whoever wins this, because nothing else matters to me.”

It would have been easy to fix too. Make it that he just needs money and a car to impress the girl, show her he’s not a loser, so he sees the contest as the easy way. Along the way he’ll learn that she still would have loved him living with his grandma, but he’s learned a solid work ethic. The way the set up just feels too easy for a movie.

Dane Cook plays the requisite slacker dude who’s happy to just coast by messing with the kiss ups at Super Club. He suddenly becomes a workaholic when he hears of this magical way to the new girl’s heart. So ensues a contest with the store’s biggest star employee for her affections.

Another problem with the film is that the main character hasn’t really earned the right to be this slacker rebel. Why should this guy be important to us? Because he writes “I like anal” on his rival’s photo? He’s got no funny or clever observations on the world that make him above any other loser.

The other actors don’t seem to be playing consistent characters. Some are doing their personas like Harland Williams, some are doing oddball characters like Andy Dick, some are doing stereotypes like the Indian guy, some are doing broad caricatures like the overly committed boss who’s badly ripping off The Office. Efran Ramirez is just blank. He’s not doing anything, not his own personality, not his typecast, just nothing.

Only Dax Shepard seems to have created a real character. He’s got enough quirks like his Cocktail-esque checking skills and his awkward, uncomfortable attempts to say smooth things.

The world of the Super Club is inconsistent too. Is this a real life store where crazy things happen? Obviously not because they sell things that don’t actually get sold in bulk. But it’s not a heightened spoof of a warehouse store either because they don’t really have fun with what makes those stores tick. There’s a checkers’ lounge versus the boxers’ lounge, but no real class system. Just good guys and bad guys. Even Shakes the Clown had degrees of clowns.

Once the competition gets under way, some of the contests are funny. Racing to mop up a spill, dealing with a rowdy toddler, everything escalating to mild outrageousness. It’s still mostly just people falling down though.

Other jokes just reek of late night Comedy Central movies. Squatting on a tiny moped isn’t funny unless a broad physical comedian like Jim Carrey or maybe a big oaf like Brad Garrett or Vince Vaughn is riding it. Just some normal dude, eh. Glen Gary and Glen Ross? We get it. Talking about a field mouse’s nuts sounds like outtakes from an open mic night. The old lady talks dirty, and you know there’s more R-rated lines for the DVD extended cut.

And I don’t want to hear that Employee of the Month is hilarious if you’re stoned. There are plenty of comedies that work both when you’re stoned and when you’re sober. Why would you make a movie that needs additional enhancement? It’s like batteries not included.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Lionsgate.

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