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Friday, October 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Employee of the Month": Big-box banality

Seattle Times movie critic

If a group of people got together and said, "Let's make a movie kind of like 'Office Space,' except nowhere near as funny," the result just might be something like "Employee of the Month," a flat workplace comedy set at a warehouse store. Vince (Dax Shepard) has been employee of the month for 17 months running, and if he wins another month, he'll set an all-time record — but not if slacker Zack (Dane Cook), his rival for the attention of pretty cashier Amy (Jessica Simpson), can stop him.

This isn't exactly knee-slapping stuff, but then again, "Office Space" probably didn't sound all that good on paper either.

The problem here is a screenplay (credited to three writers, including director Greg Coolidge) that lines up all its characters, then doesn't know what to do with them. So time is frittered away with homophobic jokes and fat jokes and baseball games and grannies talking dirty, and when the movie's over, you'll be hard-pressed to remember exactly what it was all about.

Movie review 1.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Employee of the Month," with Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson, Dax Shepard, Andy Dick. Directed by Greg Coolidge, from a screenplay by Don Calame, Chris Conroy and Coolidge. 103 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor and language. Several theaters.

And the film's three leads seem to be acting in different movies.

Cook is the most successful; he's got an amused ease on screen, and at least seems to be enjoying himself. Shepard gives a highly stylized performance that might work in television sketch comedy, but next to the relaxed Cook, he just seems a touch insane. And Simpson doesn't act at all. Luckily, the costume department has figured out that by putting her in a series of very low-cut tops, attention can be diverted from her expressionless face. The effect isn't exactly subtle: Her breasts appear to be trying to escape from the movie, perhaps in search of a better one.

There are a few clever bits here and there (the store manager is named Glen Gary, while his corporate-head brother is named Glen Ross), and you get a sense that Cook, known for standup comedy, would be pretty funny in a movie with a decent screenplay. But "Employee of the Month," which finds its comedic apex in watching cashiers scanning purchases, is disposable filmmaking, with its shelf life already up.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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