Carter Duryea (Topher??Grace) is a corporate comer. At 26, he has just had a major success marketing dinosaur-shaped cell phones to children. Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is a stayer. At 51, he's the nice guy who successfully runs ad sales for a sports magazine. There's no good reason--other than heedless youth worship--for the clueless Carter to replace steady Dan when the soulless multinational Globecom buys his publication and demotes him to playing "wingman" to Carter.
In fact, In Good Company places a steady strain on our credulity. Why, for example, is Ann (Marg Helgenberger), Dan's wife and the mother of two teenage daughters, suddenly and belatedly pregnant--except as a device to put more pressure on Dan? Why do Carter and one of those daughters, Alex (Scarlett Johansson), fall for each other--except as a way of ratcheting up the tension between Dan and his young boss? For that matter, why is Globecom firing ad salesmen at the very moment it is demanding a 20% rise in ad revenue?
Don't bother to ask. The movie is not going to tell. It will just sail along serenely, trusting in its unfailing good nature to ease us into an eager suspension of disbelief. And you know what? It works. Writer-director Paul Weitz (who with his brother Paul directed the equally agreeable About a Boy) is a clever guy, with an ability to bring his characters to the edge of rotten behavior and then let their better natures rescue them.
In deploying that gift, he is greatly aided by his actors. Nobody is better than Quaid at playing pleasantness under pressure; he succumbs neither to frustration nor to frenzy. Johansson is marvelous too. Her Alex will have her way with Dan and with Carter, but she never surrenders her sweetness, her young woman's hesitancies and insecurities.
Grace scores best. He's as cute as a button and at first displays about as much personality. Carter is "psyched" by corporate ruthlessness because he doesn't know any better. A trophy wife and a trophy car fail him, and calling a staff meeting on Sunday--a way to fill his empty day off--doesn't do much for his spirit either. This is a guy who needs to recognize his inner dorkiness and turn it into true manliness, and Grace--well, yes--gracefully manages that transition. He's a very winning actor.
In Good Company leaves a quiz show's quantity of unanswered questions. But it has the optimism and determination of a corporate whistle-blower. It makes us believe, for a moment, that it's possible to end-run the spirit of Enron. --By Richard Schickel