19 August 2007 | DonFishies
Was a great satire completely out of the question?
Dane Cook is a bit of a mystery to me. Despite my insistence of more than a few of my friends, I never quite got into any of his stand-up material, and would never recognize him as the minor or cameo character in any comedy. So it catches me as a bit of a surprise to see him in so many more films now, as he has slowly risen to being the main character in films like Employee of the Month. But despite his now obvious appeal as a comic actor, I think he still needs to realize what movie choices are good, and which are bad.
Employee of the Month, simply put, is a movie that set itself up for satiric greatness by taking place in a Costco/Sam's Club/WalMart hybrid, but just does not bother mining for any comedic gold. Instead, it grounds itself as a competition for slacker box-boy Jack (Cook) to overtake the titular position from conceited cashier Vince (Dax Shepard). And the reasoning you might ask? Because Zack found out that the new cashier, Amy (the obviously attractive Jessica Simpson), only dates those high-calibre employees.
Instead of mining, the film's writers have basically taken every cliché of every movie with a slacker pining for something more just because of the possible prize at the end, and mixed them into becoming something that is barely their own. The mere word cliché does not even do this movie justice, as it seems to go above and beyond the obvious nature of films that resemble this scheme, and seems to just revel in being just like every other movie like it. Originality seems to be the least of anyone's worries here. Thankfully, even at its worst times, the film's story is watchable and mildly enjoyable. It just has a feeling of regurgitation throughout that the viewer either lives with, or gives up on quickly.
What the writers also miss out on are the hilariously crude jokes Cook is known for. From the little stand-up I did here, I know that Cook's material is deeply invested in R-rated territory. But for some inexplicable reason, he is starring in this barely PG-13 rated travesty. Right from his first scene, you can tell the man is holding back his best jokes, and is forced to stay in tune with his rating (although his many jokes about being 'anal' seem to be about the only thing that could cross over into his more explicit side). So instead of getting some gut-busting one-liners, we are stuck listening to one-note half-baked unmemorable lines. Yes, he does have quite a few very funny lines, but the majority just fails to stick. What is even worse is, it is his supporting cast that actually gets to swear.
Yes, the likes of his character's friends which include Andy Dick, Harland Williams and Brian George, all seem to get to swear, and all seem to get the memorably funny one-liners. How can a funny stand-up comedian really break out in the film world if he is being overshadowed by a normally very unfunny supporting cast? That thought crossed my mind more than once as the film progressed, and really bogs my mind down now as I write this. Did the filmmakers not realize their grave mistake, or did they just hope no one noticed? Shepard, although I have yet to see him in a role I like, does alright here. His timing is a lot better perfected than the majority of the cast, and much like Cook, gets a few funny lines. Most of them involve his sidekick Jorge, played by everyone's favourite Napoleon Dynamite actor, Efren Ramirez. And just like he did in Dynamite, Ramirez does nothing but stare baffled at his co-stars, delivering ridiculous lines about nothing. They were not funny in then, and they are not funny now. I can only hope he stops riding the wave of fame fast, or at least come up with some new shtick soon.
But of course, the film's letdowns would not be complete without the inclusion of Ms. Simpson. Clearly she still has yet to learn how to act in a movie, and clearly, she has yet to learn how to not be attractive. So, as anyone could predict, she spends the entirety of the movie looking gorgeous and delivering lines with such stupidity that you wonder why Cook or Shepard did not bother quiting the film because of how shallow and ridiculous their co-star is. Eye candy can only go so far. It takes any kind of good looking actress to pull off a role like this, and Simpson continues to prove just how easy it is to continue making money and being popular, even if you do give the blonde stereotype a bad rep. The sooner this girl gives up the spotlight in general and just retires herself to her multi-millions in her home in the South, the better.
In the end, Employee of the Month is overly average, with minuscule amounts of wit that could have been better used had it truly been the satire it initially sets itself up to be. How anyone in their right mind could ignore the potential for brilliant satire by setting the action up in a Costco wannabe is beyond me. How anyone could watch this movie and not think of every comedy that has come before it, is an even bigger wonder that I have. And even bigger than that is, why cast a potentially R-rated comedic star in something that barely cracks PG-13?