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Film review: In Good Company

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Topher Grace, left, as boss Carter Duryea, and Dennis Quaid as ad exec Dan Foreman in "In Good Company."

Topher Grace, left, as boss Carter Duryea, and Dennis Quaid as ad exec Dan Foreman in “In Good Company.”

Glen Wilson, Universal Studios

"In Good Company" represents a big step forward for several of the talents involved, particularly TV star Topher Grace ("That '70s Show"). As he did with his cameos in both "Ocean's Eleven" and "Ocean's Twelve," and in the film "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton," he shows he can be just as charming on the big screen as he is on the small screen.

And for director Paul Weitz, it proves that his winning adaptation of "About a Boy" was no fluke, that he's more than just the brains of the "American Pie" movies.

And as for its other star, Dennis Quaid, well, the film further demonstrates that he can still be effective in the right material.

It's clear that the film believes in what's it's trying to say — an important asset since the movie itself isn't nearly as insightful or original as it seems to think it is. Yet it still comes as a breath of fresh cinematic air, largely on the strengths of the performances.

This satirical comedy-drama follows Dan Foreman (Quaid), a middle-aged ad executive working for a national sports magazine (think Sports Illustrated) that has just been bought by a multinational corporation with an it's-all-about-the-bottom-line mentality.

To add insult to injury, Dan has a new boss, Carter Duryea (Grace), a young hotshot with absolutely no experience in advertising. Needless to say, the men two clash — especially when Carter is given orders to cut the staff.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Dan, his recently divorced boss has also begun dating Dan's daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johansson), who's hiding this development from her doting dad.

Things do get a bit predictable from there. As you'd expect, Dan eventually shows Carter that the old ways are often better than the new ways — that veterans often know more than Johnny-come-latelys. And the romance subplot does bog things down a bit.

But the cast makes it work. In fact, Grace's dry, deadpan delivery and put-upon routine makes several sequences funnier than they probably should be, and he has believable chemistry with both Quaid and Johansson.

Several of the supporting performances really register, too, including Marg Helgenberger as Dan's supportive wife and David Paymer as one of Dan's most trusted co-workers. And both Malcolm McDowell and Clark Gregg always make great bad guys.

"In Good Company" is rated PG-13 for occasional use of strong profanity and some crude sexual slang terms, brief violence (some athletic, as well as some fisticuffs), brief drug content (references to drug use), and brief partial male nudity (a mooning). Running time: 109 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com