- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

Disappearing Swingline staplers, lusty propositions in the electronics aisle, and erroneous TelePrompTers during news hour in San Diego; this stuff is hilarious. Such movies as “Office Space,” “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” have unearthed a whole world just waiting to be mined and exploited for our viewing pleasure: the workplace, in all its manifestations.

So “Employee of the Month,” a film about the ubiquitous bulk-shopping warehouse, sounded like a comedy lover’s dream. The first feature from writer/director Greg Coolidge (with some scriptwriting assistance from Don Calame and Chris Conroy) “Employee” is produced by the “Wedding Crashers” crew.

What’s not funny about 10-gallon pretzel barrels, forklifts and free samples of chipotle chicken sausages? Oh yeah, and the movie stars stand-up stud Dane Cook, “Punk’d” improv maestro Dax Shepard, hot-bod Jessica Simpson and an impressive supporting cast.

Unfortunately, the end product is like a trip to SuperClub; yeah, maybe you got some necessities — tuna, multivitamins, etc. — but mostly, you ended up with a whole lot of junk you didn’t really need.

Vince (Dax Shepard) is SuperClub’s golden boy, the winner of 17 consecutive Employee of the Month titles. He’s a scanner-gun-toting cowboy who works the register like Bill Clinton works a crowd. He’s even got a trusty sidekick in Jorge (Efren Ramirez).

Conversely, Zack (Dane Cook) is handsome and cool, but he holds a lowly box-boy position, constantly arrives late to work and lives with his grandma.

At least Zack’s got a lot of zany work buddies: metaphor-master Glen Gary (Tim Bagley), four-eyed Lon (Andy Dick) and the requisite ethnic guy, Iqbal (Brian George). They have a secret hideaway atop the multistoried pallets and often resemble the “Anchorman” news team — but not as funny.

Everything’s fine until Amy (Jessica Simpson) arrives. With her Barbie-like blond locks and superdeep V-neck tees, she looks even better than the promotional special on Goodyear tires.

Both Vince and Zack want her bad, and since she’ll supposedly only date Employees of the Month, a heated competition ensues. The boys will sprint to clean up Aisle 6, race to find (obnoxious) lost children and finally duel it out at the cash register in her honor.

In his blinding quest to win, Zack will risk losing it all: his friends, the girl and even his job. Luckily, his cart ends up full at the film’s close.

It’s too bad that the script doesn’t give its comedy masters much room to move and that many of the jokes feel stale, like potato chips that have been on the shelf too long. Also, the nonwhite characters — such as the overweight, dumbfounded black security guard, Semi — are borderline offensive. At least all the roles are caricatured, which makes Miss Simpson’s performance that much better.

Some of us have given the bulk markets second and even third tries, and we’ll do the same for you, Mr. Coolidge and gang. You never know when you might stumble on a fantastic bargain, right?

**

TITLE: “Employee of the Month”

RATING: PG-13 for lewd and crude humor and language

CREDITS: Directed by Greg Coolidge. Screenplay by Don Calame & Chris Conroy and Greg Coolidge.

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

WEB SITE: www.employeeofthemonthfilm.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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