Saying The Promotion‘s tone is all wrong would imply that it had a tone to begin with. Aiming for a blend of The Office‘s workplace drollness and out-of-left-field silliness, writer-director Steve Conrad’s film instead finds itself stuck in a toxic middle ground where both humor and drama go to die. At Donaldson’s supermarket, assistant manager Doug (Seann William Scott) yearns to move up the corporate ladder by nabbing the managerial position at a forthcoming new store, a plan that’s complicated by the arrival of Richard (John C. Reilly), a Quebecois who also pines for the post. While this setup seems destined to develop into an ever-nastier competition for the job, Conrad only goes halfway down that route. Given the inclusion of Jenna Fischer, Fred Armison, and Jason Bateman, it’s clear that the film aims to be a comedy, so it’s baffling to find that the pranks and schemes concocted by Doug and Richard are so mild and pitiful, and that they frequently take a back seat to faux-meaningful conflicts with their featureless spouses (Fischer and Lili Taylor, the latter sporting an inexplicable Scottish accent) and quirky-touching sequences such as Richard slowly tap dancing while listening to his motivational cassette tapes in a half-lit supermarket aisle. Scott, funniest when he’s hyperactive and sarcastic, is straitjacketed by a character who’s all internalized frustration, though he still winds up better off than Reilly, stuck in a one-note joke of a role that occasionally has the audacity to beg for empathy. The Promotion is so indecisive that it can’t even figure out how it wants us to feel about its protagonists, flip-flopping almost on a whim between portraying them as endearing goofballs and petty, selfish losers. Plenty clear, however, is that Donaldson’s is the literal, abysmal manifestation of George Constanza’s jerk store.
- Dimension Films
- 88 min
- Steve Conrad
- Steve Conrad
- Seann William Scott, John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Lili Taylor, Fred Armison, Gil Bellows, Bobby Cannavale, Rich Gonzalez, Chris Conrad
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