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In Good Company

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Hollywood movies have a hard enough time creating one engaging lead character, so it’s a pleasant surprise to find the confident and likeable In Good Company, which actually gives us two characters well worth an audience’s time.

Fifty-one-year-old Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is an honest, hard-working sales executive for Sports America magazine, but the poor guy is so ill-suited for ever-changing corporate dynamics, his colleagues affectionately refer to him as a dinosaur.

Like those poster children for extinction, Dan certainly has some issues with time. He is certain his 13-year-old daughter is too young for a boyfriend, but she has one. He is certain his wife, Ann (Marg Helgenberger), is well beyond child-bearing age, but she’s pregnant.

And this old-school salesman with the no-frills sales pitch is absolutely certain that, in a just world, his boss is not supposed to be half his age. But whadd’ya know? Dan’s world is upheaved when Sports America is purchased by a giant media conglomerate called Globecom. Dan is demoted and replaced by 26-year-old up-and-comer Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), whose chief familiarity with dinosaurs is his having hawked dino-shaped cell phones to children.

For many fimmakers, it would have been too tempting to fashion all this into an anti-big business screed in which a ruthless 20-something climbs the corporate ladder over the bodies of older and better people. But director-writer Paul Weitz is smart enough to make Carter, as workaholic and pathetically ingratiating as he is, thoroughly sympathetic. After all, Carter’s carefully constructed universe is failing him, too. Once his newlywed wife (Selma Blair, in what amounts to a cameo) walks out on him, the newly crowned sales boss is desperate for a friend – and organizing Sunday meetings in the office just doesn’t fill the void.

He latches on to Dan one evening, all but inviting himself to the man’s home for dinner. It is there he is smitten by Alex (Scarlett Johansson — who wouldn’t be smitten?), Dan’s oldest daughter attending college at New York University.

Carter, in particular, is exceptionally well-drawn, and the gifted Topher Grace captures magnificently the character’s blend of obnoxious self-absorption and suffocating need for affection. Grace might be destined for great things in film, a Tobey Maguire-type, only with a smirk and quirky charm.

Quaid, too, redeems himself for his work in last year’s The Alamo and soundtrack — featuring the likes of Iron & Wine, David Byrne, the Shins and Damien Rice — that sets a leisurely, if melancholy, tone.

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About Chase McInerney