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In Rather Good 'Company'

By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 14, 2005; Page WE32

"IN GOOD Company" is further proof that brotherly filmmaking team Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz can do better than repeddle sequels of "American Pie." The first proof was the 2002 "About a Boy," a terrific adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel that starred Hugh Grant.

The latest film, which Paul wrote and directs, and Chris produced, isn't scintillating, but it's sort of embraceably funny. You can't help liking it, no matter how much or little you laugh. That's due to the amusing tension between the truehearted Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), a salt-of-the-earth 51-year-old salesman for a sports magazine, and Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), the twenty-something brat who suddenly becomes his boss.

Salesman Dan (Dennis Quaid, left) can't stand his younger boss, Carter (Topher Grace) -- who's also dating his daughter -- in "In Good Company." (Glen Wilson -- Universal Studios)

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It seems Dan's professional ethics are about to become passe. He sells because he believes in the product. He is high on company loyalty and the long-term retention of good employees. But when his company is acquired in a corporate takeover, many people are fired and he's demoted. Suddenly, Carter, who's brought in to manage the sales force, has the power to hire and fire (although he uses the human resources euphemism "let go") and talks a business school graduate's game of cross-promotion and "synergy."

Dan can't stand the smarmy runt, nor the forced exodus of many of his older colleagues, but he has reason to keep working. His wife, Ann (Marg Helgenberger), has just become pregnant, which means Dan will be in his seventies when his child turns 21. And his oldest daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johansson), wants to go to New York University, forcing Dan and Ann to take out a second mortgage.

But just when he thinks he's got a handle on the new life, Dan gets a new shocker: Carter is dating Alex. His own daughter going out with that?

As Carter, Grace (best known for his role on "That '70s Show") is mischievously enjoyable. He's all motormouth anxiety and mangled corporate-speak, as he pretends to be big money. But behind that wall of nervous desire to please and impress, there's a vulnerability. It's the part of him that has genuinely fallen in love (or thinks he has) with Alex. Quaid, craggier now than the Continental Divide, reprises the likability he had in "The Rookie." He makes an interesting hero, too: over 50, married and thinking mainly about the welfare of his family and fellow employees.

Even though "In Good Company" has a sort of studio-greenlight glow (as if all the characters have been checked for wayward qualities that might turn off a test-marketing audience), it's still pleasant to sit through. You never even give yourself the expectation that the film will soar into the heavens. You just expect it to move along at an enjoyable, positive clip. Which it does.

IN GOOD COMPANY (PG-13, 119 minutes) -- Contains sexual situations, drug references and one minor moment of violence. Area theaters.

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