Employee of the Month (UK - DVD R2)
Our Scott McKenzie watches his first Jessica Simpson film. Will it be his last?
Zack (played by Dane Cook) is a thirty-something slacker, coasting his way through life in his job at the bottom of the food chain at bulk-buy store Super Club. His attitude changes when the beautiful Amy (Jessica Simpson) starts work at Super Club and rumour has it that she always sleeps with the guy who wins the employee of the month award. This pits Zack against Vince (Dax Shepard), the career suck-up who has won the award for the previous seventeen months and if he wins the award for the eighteenth time, he will win a promotion, a car and probably get the girl of Zack’s dreams.
You probably won’t be surprised to know that I wasn’t expecting big things from Employee of the Month. Two grown men fighting over an employee of the month award just to get Jessica Simpson in the sack is a tough setup to sell, but I always do my best to approach each review without prejudice so I popped it into the player with an open mind. The opening scenes were predictable: set the good guy up as a cheeky, loveable scamp and set the bad guy up as a prick. The point where the filmmakers well and truly lost me was with the introduction of Jessica Simpson’s character.
If the reactions of the characters are to be believed, then Jessica Simpson is too good looking to work in a store like Super Club. They all assume she’s tried to get in without a membership card and there’s no possible way in the world that she could work there. To me, this is insulting to both the people who generally work in this type of store and the audience. Of course, all good looking blonde girls are superstars that don’t need to have day jobs, aren’t they? Oh, they’re not? It’s easy to believe that Zack would fancy her but would he really change his whole attitude to work just because Vince likes her as well? There’s just not enough relationship development between them. A more realistic expectation would be that he would just shrug it off and try and crack on to the next hot chick that comes along, but that wouldn’t make much of a movie, would it?
Before watching Employee of the Month, I’d never heard of Dane Cook. I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen any of the other films he’s starred in and I was completely oblivious to the fact that he’s some kind of big-shot stand up comedian in the US, probably because I live in the UK. His performance is easily the strongest and gets the best lines, many of which are improvised, but the role of Zack isn’t exactly a stretch for him. As a newcomer to him, I thought he had a similar presence to Chevy Chase in his early films and I could see him taking over the lead role in the next Fletch movie.
I hoped Jessica Simpson would surpass my expectations and put in a half-decent performance, but she just doesn’t carry off the role. When other characters are talking, she looks like she’s just waiting to say her next line and when she does, she looks very uncomfortable. I won’t give away the details here but the attempt to give her character depth is really weak and reinforces the fact that her presence is pretty pointless. The rivalry between Zack and Vince is enough to carry this movie and the addition of a battle between them for her affections is completely unnecessary because Vince is so unlikeable that there's no way in the world she could fall for him.
There are moments that made me laugh but they’re few and far between and a few comments thrown into the screenplay fly a bit close to racism for my liking. At 104 minutes, Employee of the Month is at least ten minutes too long and there are plenty of scenes that could have been left on the cutting room floor. On the whole, it’s a run-of-the-mill contest movie aimed at young teens that might keep the less discriminating viewer entertained but there’s just too many negatives for me to recommend Employee of the Month.
Employee of the Month comes with a 16x9 anamorphic picture, but that’s where the good points end. The picture is quite grainy and while the black sections aren’t too bad, areas of colour show signs of compression. Edge enhancement is noticeable but not severe and the video quality in general is slightly fuzzy and lacking detail. Also, along the top of the picture there is a flickering black line, which wasn't obvious when I was watching it on TV but I noticed it when I loaded the disc in my computer, which you can see on the screenshots in this review. If you've got a new big screen TV, it's safe to say this isn't the disc you should use to show it off with.
You have the choice between a Stereo and a 5.1 surround track, but to be honest there’s not a huge difference between the two. Dialogue and music are clear and don’t drown each other out and there’s no noticeable interference. Apart from a small number of scenes, the movie never really has the opportunity to make use of directional sound and what we’re left with is an audio track that doesn’t get in the way of the viewing experience but also doesn’t go out of its way to impress the audience.
Employee of the Month comes with two audio commentaries. The first, featuring Dane Cook and director Greg Coolidge, is entertaining and filled with banter between two people who obviously enjoyed working together, but it actually contains more bad language than the movie itself. The second audio commentary is with just the director himself, which is more technical and on his own, he has the chance to talk about the project from script to post-production.
The disc opens with trailers for Edison Force and Right at Your Door but thankfully you can skip past them. First on the list of extras is a featurette showing the actors ad-libbing their lines. We then get a deleted opening to the movie that shows Zack and Vince on their first day at Super Club, including an unbilled cameo appearance by Eva Longoria. There are two featurettes with the actors in character: ‘Beauty of Bulk’, which shows the joy of buying in bulk and ‘Men of Super Club’, highlighting the lives of the male characters. The ‘At Work with Lon’ featurette is actually just two sketches featuring the short-sighted optometrist and the small selection of bloopers show the actors forgetting their lines and goofing around on set. These extras are actually funnier than the movie itself, so if you’re picking up this DVD don’t watch the extras first or you’ll probably be very disappointed with the movie.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m getting old, but I can’t remember many recent comedies that actually made me laugh. There’s the odd chuckle to be had from Employee of the Month but there aren’t any real laugh-out-loud moments, even if the quote on the case may tell you otherwise. The DVD comes with a pretty good set of extras, a lot more than I was expecting, and if you’re a fan of the film you should pick it up but if you’re a newcomer I can only recommend you give it a miss.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 14th May 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Feature Commentaries, Bloopers, Ad Libs, Alternate Opening, Beauty of Bulk Featurette, At Work with Lon Featurette, Men of Super Club Featurette, On Set Shenanigans
Easter Egg: No
Director: Greg Coolidge
Cast: Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson, Dax Shepard, Efren Ramirez, Andy Dick, Tim Bagley
Length: 104 minutes
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