DVD Review HTF Review: In Good Company

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, May 25, 2005.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
    Likes Received:

    In Good Company

    Studio: Universal
    Year: 2004
    Rated: PG-13
    Running Time: 110 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Captions: English
    Subtitles: French and Spanish
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1; French and Spanish – Dolby Digital 5.1

    Release Date:
    May 10th, 2005

    I think most people would agree that the American Pie trilogy became more crude with each successive installment. I also think that most people would agree that sibling co-directors Paul and Chris Weitz showed a remarkable ability to infuse some sensitivity and heart into a teen sex comedy in the first entry (they only directed that one), as well as making the characters more likeable and interesting than those in most other pictures in that particular genre. The filmmaking brothers brought the same sensitivity, charm, and ability to create immensely likeable characters to a decidedly more “British” film in 2002’s About A Boy, a terrific adaptation of Nick Hornby’s wonderful novel about the relationship between a wealthy, hip (and lazy) bachelor and a lonely boy being raised by his truly bizarre and suicidal single mother.

    For In Good Company, the formula has changed a bit, as Paul has assumed all of the directorial responsibilities and Chris is “only” producing. Fortunately, Paul doesn’t miss a beat in bringing the same sort of compassion and poignancy to the story, which he also penned. As a result, In Good Company turns out to be a lighthearted, interesting, and funny film that comments on the state of the present day corporate environment through the disparate lives and complex relationship between a middle-aged family man and the inexperienced young executive who becomes his boss.

    Dennis Quaid, who really shines as Dan Foreman, handles the former role adeptly, portraying a middle-aged advertising manager at Sports America magazine with zeal. After a brief introduction to the characters, the story begins in earnest when a multi-national conglomerate swallows up Sports America, at which point Dan is demoted. Naturally, Dan is upset at being demoted after many years of hard work, but he is unable to quit because his wife, Ann (Marg Helgenberger), has just announced she is pregnant! Further, his daughter Alex (the lovely Scarlett Johansson) wants to attend New York University to study creative writing, which saddles him with another heavy financial burden.

    Already frustrated and scared, Dan soon learns that his replacement, Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), is a yes-man nearly half his age with minimal experience in advertising but a sound vocabulary of all the meaningless corporate buzzwords that are so popular today. Unlike his coworkers, who kiss Carter’s ass from and nod in approval as the aforementioned buzzwords, which no one understands, roll off his tongue, Dan takes a stand. More specifically, he voices his dismay at Carter’s preoccupation with facilitating “synergy” between the newly acquired Sports America and other entities within the conglomerate.

    He is also disappointed that Carter seems to be oblivious to the fact that establishing firm relationships with customers is the cornerstone of generating and maintaining ad sales, as opposed to trying to impress companies with over-the-top cross-promotional ideas that commingle different areas of the conglomerate. The way Dan questions this latter approach is, of course, totally taboo in the corporate world, but a central theme of Paul Weitz’s intelligent and entertaining screenplay, which touches on how radically and rapidly the big business landscape can change.

    Now as much as Dan’s life has been shaken up by the corporate takeover of his publication, he has no idea how much the turmoil in his new boss’ marriage will further rock his world. You see, Carter’s “ice princess” wife (Selma Blair) decides to leave him, so he extends an invitation to himself to have dinner at Dan’s home! Upon arriving for dinner, Carter meets Alex, and is instantly taken in by her beauty.

    Later, when their relationship progresses beyond mere friendship, it creates a great deal of tension for Dan, who was already angered at having been demoted and replaced by a much younger and more inexperienced man. Will Dan snap, and pound Carter to a bloody pulp? Will he quit his job and embrace a new career? Will Carter and Alex end up living happily ever after? Well, I know, but I am not going to spoil the viewing experience for you, let’s move along…

    Since I am not going to lift the veil off the plot any further, let’s take a brief look at whether Paul Weitz is able to make this rare breed of film – a studio-produced comedy with a message - work. I’ll begin by saying that speaking in general terms. Namely, although the film has a few problems, in my opinion, the focal point of In Good Company, namely the interaction between Dan and Carter is humorous, well written, realistic, and satisfying. Indeed, it makes the film worth a look on its own, at least for me.

    Unfortunately, this element of the film is so successful that some other aspects of In Good Company seem a tad shaky and underdeveloped by comparison. For instance, while the Dan/Carter relationship has a truly organic feeling to it (as does the marriage between Dan and Ann), Carter’s courtship of Alex is slightly forced and has a predictable outcome, especially in terms of Dan’s reaction. In part, I think this has more to do with the fact that Scarlett Johansson does not seem to be quite as comfortable in this role as she has been in other films.

    Other minor problems I had with the film involved the conglomerate’s people at Sports America, which were all rather thinly written, and how by attempting to both amuse and offer an intelligent commentary on the corporate world’s tendency to undervalue older workers, In Good Company doesn’t really hit it our of the park in either area. The silver lining in the dark cloud, however, is that even in cases where the film hits a speed bump, the relationship between Dan Foreman and Carter Duryea, and the respect that grew between them, seemed so genuine that I remained enchanted by this motion picture throughout.

    The truly professional production, on all fronts, also helps the film overcome its weaknesses. For example, as discussed by Paul Weitz in the audio commentary, the excellent production design by William Arnold, and Remi Adefarasin’s tasteful cinematography, to mention a few things, added a lot to this story and its characters. In similar fashion, a beautiful but understated score by Stephen Trask supplements the onscreen happenings without drawing undue attention to itself, thus complementing the onscreen happenings nicely.

    In terms of performances, the good news continues, as Dennis Quaid seemed really at home as Dan Foreman. In my opinion, he anchored the film with his smooth transitions between Dan’s frustration at the lack of sensibility his new corporate bosses display, his concerns about his future after being demoted, and the strength of the bonds he develops with both his family and his work group. Realy, Quaid’s turn in this film makes Dan an all-around nice guy, which the ending of the film really makes clear.

    The biggest surprise in this film, however, is Topher Grace, who plays Carter Duryea with finesse, passion, and subtlety that should make him one to watch. He is utterly convincing as the ambitious young executive, who will do anything to achieve his goals, but is crippled by his inexperience and a tendency to overextend himself in areas with which he is unfamiliar. Grace also excels in scenes set outside the confines of the office, such as when he is unable to drive his prized new Porsche Boxster completely off the dealer’s lot without incident. He also exhibits a genuine sense of sincerity when he begins going out with young Alex Foreman.

    To sum things up, although it suffers a bit from trying to be both funny and impart a valuable message, the film really works on most levels, which is saying a lot, since it takes a “different” approach to comedy. As I mentioned above, it also has a lot to say, particularly about the value of older people’s life experience, the importance of family, and the bonds of friendship. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I got a lot out of the fascinating contrast between the secure Foreman household and the chaotic home environment Duryea lives in towards the beginning of the film.

    In consideration of all of these things, I think In Good Company is a film that plays to different demographics, and plays pretty well, because Paul Weitz has crafted something that people from all walks of life can relate to, especially those who are frustrated with the increasingly corporate nature of the workplace. If you are fond of Mr. Weitz’s previous work, I recommend giving this one a spin!

    Universal seems to go through ups-and-downs when it comes to DVD presentation, but thankfully In Good Company’s anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) image transfer is of very high quality! Beginning with the obvious (or what you might expect the obvious to be), the print was clean, sharp, and free of any noticeable print damage.

    Colors are rendered extremely well, appearing either subdued or luscious, depending upon what the source material dictated. This applies to everything including the actor’s skin tones, which looked natural throughout, although items like Alex’s bright red tennis bag and Carter’s slick blue Porsche exhibited quite a bit of pop!

    The image also boasts deep, noise-free blacks, which plays an important part in forcing shadows to turn over their details to viewers, as well as giving the picture depth. Detail is also good, especially in close-ups, but it frequently extends into the background of a particular sequence. This is important, since a lot of thought was given to the set design (pay attention to the differences in the manager’s office depending on whether Carter or Dan occupies it, for one example).

    Best of all, I did not detect the presence of edge enhancement, and the image also appears to be free of ugly and distracting compression artifacts! Thus, all in all, I have to say that In Good Company’s image transfer is something Universal can be proud of. Reference quality? No, not quite, but I find it hard to imagine that too many folks will be displeased with this disc’s visuals, which look just about as good as Scarlett Johansson. Very good job!

    In Good Company’s soundtrack is fairly standard issue for a comedy, coming in the form of a respectable Dolby Digital (5.1 channel) mix that is not quite spectacular but also devoid of significant problems or irritations. To begin with, the soundstage is nice and spacious, and is highlighted by solid frequency response and fairly precise imaging.

    Since the bulk of the audio information comes in the form of dialogue, it also helps that characters’ speech is always intelligible and balanced nicely against other components of the soundtrack (i.e. music and effects). As you might have guessed, given how recent this production was, there is also no hissing, distortion, or other anomalies present…unless you turn it up to eardrum perforating volumes that is [​IMG] !

    In terms of surround usage, you can expect the conservative approach taken by most comedies. More specifically, the rears are utilized chiefly to create ambience or embellish the film’s music, but there are also instances when they are called to reproduce location-based effects. Bass response can be described in a similar fashion – it is somewhat subdued, but there are certainly times when the sub will make its presence known.

    All in all, this mix is a sound representation of In Good Company’s audio, and presents the source material about as well as can be expected.


    Audio Commentary
    The feature length commentary for In Good Company is provided by Paul Weitz and actor Topher Grace, who are articulate and easy to listen to (boy have I had a good run with commentaries recently [​IMG] ) as they discuss the film and the process of creating it. As you might expect, since he wrote, produced, and directed, Weitz dominates the commentary, but Grace makes his presence known as well, and the two fellows seem to have a very good rapport. Some of the highlights included:

    --- Weitz discussing how the opening scene (and others throughout the film) were specifically structured to give viewers a clear sense of the characters’ vulnerability.

    --- Topher Grace and Paul Weitz talking about how the film is accessible to persons in different age groups through the perspectives of the different characters.

    --- Weitz revealing his inspirations…I mean “where he steals his stuff from” at various points throughout the commentary track.

    --- A great amount of detail is offered about Weitz’s directorial style, particularly in terms of how he communicates with the actors, and the way he writes visually, to avoid getting bored with shooting scenes in a conventional manner.

    As I stated above, this is an enjoyable and informative commentary, and well worth the time of those who are fond of the film.

    Deleted Scenes – With Commentary by Writer/Director Paul Weitz
    A total of 16-minutes worth of deleted scenes have been included, which can be viewed either with or without commentary by writer/director Paul Weitz, and are presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen format. Some of these sequences are actually pretty good, but as Paul Weitz explains, most of them were cut to make the movie a more manageable length, or because the information contained therein was covered elsewhere. They are entitled:

    --- Scene #8: International Airplane with Dan, Louie, and Morty
    --- Scene #41: Carter Calls His Wife From Hospital
    --- Scene #45: Dan Tells Ann About Demotion
    --- Scene #59-61: Dan Hears Carter Retching After Firing Enrique
    --- Scene #62: Dan Golfs
    --- Carter Talks to Co-Workers About His Wife
    --- Scene #72-73: Dan Arrives Early For Meeting
    --- Scene #74a-75: Dan Dyes Hair – It Drips During Meeting
    --- Scene #90-93: Office Phones Not Working, Cell Phones Not Working
    --- Scene #169: Dan Quits His Job

    Synergy Documentary
    These interrelated featurettes, a nod to the film’s original title, treat with the following:

    S (for Stars)
    This fluffy 3-minute segment gives viewers interview excerpts from Dennis Quaid and Marg Helgenberger, who briefly chat about their characters, how much Dennis “sucks” at basketball, and how warm and funny the script was. Not only is it short, but there are also too many film clips in it for it to be truly effective.

    Y (for Youth)
    This brief (2 ½ Minutes) featurette gets viewers better acquainted with stars Scarlett Johnasson and Topher Grace…well as much as you can in 2 ½ minutes, I guess.

    N (for Getting Older)
    Running only two minutes, this extra features director Paul Weitz talking about Dennis Quaid’s contributions to the film and the important role played by older people within society.

    E (for Real Life)
    Clocking in at 4 minutes, this featurette is comprised of interviews with successful business people, including the Maloof Brothers, who offer their thoughts on today’s business environment, and discuss how the qualities needed to rise to the top of the business world. In addition, execs from a sports publication talk about Dennis Quaid’s character and the job he held in the film.

    R (for New York Locations)
    Over the course of 3 minutes, we get to tail Paul Weitz as he tools around New York to shoot exteriors and a tennis sequence featuring Dennis Quaid and Scarlett Johnasson.

    G (for Editing)
    Through this featurette (4 minutes), viewers get to see editor Myron Kerstein in action, learn that the first cut of the film ran 2 hours and 45 minutes, and hear the reason why a few scenes were deleted from the film.

    Y (for Story)
    Running for 4 minutes, this featurette consists of an interview with writer/director Paul Weitz, who explains his inspiration for the story, and how he wanted to do a comedy with societal implications.

    Cast and Filmmakers
    Brief bios and filmographies are available for:

    --- Dennis Quaid (Dan Foreman)
    --- Scarlett Johnasson (Alex)
    --- Topher Grace (Carter Duryea)
    --- Marg Helgenberger (Ann)
    --- David Paymer (Martie)
    --- Paul Weitz (Writer, Director, and Producer)
    --- Chris Weitz (Producer)
    --- Rodney Liber (Executive Producer)
    --- Andrew Miano (Executive Producer)

    The theatrical trailer for In Good Company is available.


    (on a five-point scale)
    Film: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Paul Weitz’s In Good Company is a good little film, which is funny and yet has something to say without beating you senseless with it. The performances by both Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace are wonderful, and their chemistry really kept me involved in the film.

    As for its treatment on home video, I can’t complain too much, for In Good Company features solid transfers of both the audio and video components of the film. Overall the extras are also good, as the commentary and deleted scenes were definitely worth a listen and look, while the synergy documentary left a little something to be desired.

    I know I already mentioned this above, but if you liked the Weitz brothers’ take on About A Boy, give this one a look, because Paul Weitz infuses the film with a lot of the same subtle humor, charm, and likeable characters. It doesn’t hurt that the presentation of the film was also handled adeptly by Universal. Recommended!

    Stay tuned…
  2. Bill Thomann

    Bill Thomann Supporting Actor

    Nov 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Excellent review for a really surprisingly good film which I've got already on dvd. It is a very unique film and one that a lot of people didn't see in theaters but should give a try now. I would also recommend giving this one a spin!

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