In Good Company

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            “In Good Company” is a real surprise.   The hype that promised cliché delivers something else entirely.   This is a movie for a night when you want lightness, not enlightenment.  How rare it is these days to be able to say the primary character trait in the main characters is decency.  Cast by circumstance as natural opponents in a corporate takeover, Dan (Dennis Quaid) and Carter (Topher Grace) never sink into the expected ugly competition.  

            Dan is a solid man settled happily with a wife, children, and a job he loves.  The job in corporate sales gives him a good salary, good co-workers, and fine corner office with lots of windows.  He is not a greedy man, nor even an ambitious one.  He’s everybody’s ideal boss, full of understanding for the people he manages.  Life is good. 

            Returning to his fine office from lunch one day, he finds a very young man, about his daughter’s age, standing comfortably in the room.  “Can I help you?” Dan asks.  “Yes, Dan, I’m Carter, your new boss.”  Dan doesn’t crumble or explode, he accepts; that’s his nature.  To celebrate his new prominence Carter buys a bright new Porsche.  As he sinks into his leather lined success symbol, he drives straight out of the dealer’s lot into a van.  It’s funny, and it’s humbling.  From that awful point on, Carter has only one eye on success; the other is on the happy life Dan has managed to achieve.   It’s a nice equation. 

            After being told “you have the potential to be an awesome wingman to Carter,” Dan brings the boy home to dinner.  Young boss and daughter (Scarlett Johansson) meet;  Mom (Marg Helgenberger) is smart, perceptive, and terrific.  Carter’s decent instincts are reinforced by this new family. You can hear him thinking,  “So there’s something else in life.”  In some odd way he is redeemed by his inexperience.

            Dennis Quaid’s Dan is rumpled, bronzed, and wrinkled in nice counterpoint to Topher Grace’s Carter whose tall, thin, perfection is daunting.  We know instinctively that rumpled here means wisdom and compassion while perfection means an innocent kid trying desperately to figure out how to be a boss.  The two actors team up to wring good laughs from Paul Weitz’s fast moving, snappy script. 

            Scarlett Johansson’s Alex isn’t given much to do.  She seems to be there to show that Dan has been a good father and that a nice girl can bring out the best in Carter.  There are multiple slaps to the face of globalization and corporate tyranny.  To anyone who has worked in a mega corporation, the constant stream of movers and packing boxes screams loudly of the vulnerability of white-collar workers.  It’s nice to think, even if we don’t really believe it, that in the covert competition of the corporate world there might be at least one genuinely good boss whose example brings out the best in people. 



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