Combine the offhanded detachment of Bill Murray and the boy-next-door benevolence of Jimmy Stewart, and you have a picture of what Judge Reinhold could turn out to be. Reinhold has a face that is halfway between leading-man handsome and Donald Duck, and a relaxed, drawling confidence with a line -- he seems to float not above the action but on it, like oil on water. And he seems to survive "Head Office," a comedy so confused and cowardly it makes television look daring.
"Head Office" starts out as a contemporary version of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," and there's yeast in the idea. Through his father's connections, Jack Issel (Reinhold) gets a job at INC, the glommiest of conglomerates, where he soon discovers that business school didn't prepare him for business. As run by its crazed founder (Eddie Albert, funny as always), INC is a den for cutthroats and hypocrites. The irony is that goofy, wide-eyed Jack gets promotion after promotion.
Ken Finkleman hasn't got what you'd call a soft touch -- it's as if Cecil B. De Mille directed a comedy -- but at the beginning, at least, the comedy works. Rick Moranis provides a hilarious cameo as a fast-talking workaholic (he delivers his lines like a pachinko machine); Wallace Shawn provides another slice of fun as a nebbishy executive whose number is up; Danny De Vito growls ably as a Type-A roly-poly indicted for fraud; and walrus-mustached Richard Masur anchors it all with his glottal languor.
Unfortunately, Moranis, Shawn and De Vito all drop out early. And while Finkleman (who also wrote) has a flair for staccato jokes, he's not exactly a bear for structure, and that's why "Head Office" goes into Chapter 11. The story swiftly conforms to the teen-comedy formula: INC turns out to be involved in conspiracies involving the closing of a plant and propping up a foreign dictatorship; Jack finds himself fighting a number of Aryan sycophants around the office; boy meets girl, boy and girl defeat parents.
It's a kind of Executive Suite 'n' Low.
Head Office, at area theaters, is rated PG-13 and contains some profanity and sexual themes.