Published Jun 26, 2008Is writer/director Steve Conrads brand of humour doomed to miss the mark? His previous script for The Weather Man, while a promising concept, turned out to be a slightly skewed but largely unsatisfying picture. The Promotion appears to be aimed at similar comedic ground.
Sean William Scott and John C. Reilly star as assistant managers of a grocery store who get into a tense competition over the managerial position they both apply for at a new store location thats opening. Both men have their faults and charms but its overly obvious who the audience is supposed to side with.
Scotts Doug Stauber is the clean-cut nice guy whos put in his time in middle management and just wants his due so he and his nurse wife (a luminous but under-used Jenna Fischer) can finally buy their own house and get away from the kinky gay banjo player next door.
Reillys Richard is a sneaky hotshot from Canada sent down to throw a wrench in Dougs plans. Or so it seems at first. Richard is actually pretty pathetic. Hes a recovering drug addict/biker from Quebec with no trace of a French accent and a very Scottish wife played by Lili Taylor, who makes the most of her limited lines.
There is a tremendously talented cast of comedic actors, so its disappointing Conrad wasnt self-aware enough about his limitations as a writer to give his cast free rein to improvise more of the material. An odd charm rules the film and it almost works better as a humble character piece because the actors give it their all, no matter how weak their characters motivation.
Reilly, Taylor and Fischer are slumming it here but Sean William Scott deserves better material to work with. Hes emerged as the only American Pie alum worth paying attention to, each role distancing him from the frat boy stupidity of Stifler while carving out his place as a likeable leading man.
Hopefully, Scott has more to work with in his next film, Role Models, and maybe Conrad will finally figure out how to make a funny comedy, if he gets Chad Schmidt off the ground. But for now, The Promotion wont do anything to move him out of Hollywoods middle management. (Alliance Films)