American directors who score big with comedy early in their careers tend to betray that success by hastening to make ickily sentimental dramas.
Brett Ratner set the pattern by swapping his enjoyable Rush Hour films for the horrible The Family Man (2000). Paul Weitz follows suit with In Good Company, a much less interesting and accomplished film than his debut hit, American Pie (1999).
In Good Company has a cute premise. Dan (Dennis Quaid, forever with a furrowed brow) discovers, after the corporate restructure of the sports magazine he works for, that his new boss, Carter (Topher Grace from television's That '70s Show), is half his age.
Even worse, this mere boy, in his more sensitive moments, strikes up an intimate relationship with Dan's uni-student daughter, Alex (Scarlet Johansson).
For a while, Weitz (who also wrote the script) enjoys alternating between the daily problems of Dan and Carter, whose destinies appear to have traded places: while Dan faces the scary prospect of a new child with his wife, Ann (Marg Helgenberger), Carter is already suffering a divorce from his ice-cold bride, Kimberley (Selma Blair).
In Good Company tries to make an intelligent point or two about the modern world, where endless invocations of synergy and global communities in the business sector mask the extinguishing of good old, human values.
But it is a turgid, soppy film, barely enlivened by cameos from such seasoned character actors as Philip Baker Hall and Malcolm McDowell.
© Adrian Martin April 2005