I saw an advanced screening of Employee of the Month last week, and I am still... stunned. At the risk of losing my critical clout and sounding as corny as Gene Shalit, I must confess: it's a surprisingly good movie. Yeah, I know.
While it's no Office Space, the film does manage to nail the working environment. In this case, it's Super Club, an impossibly large warehouse where everything is sold in bulk. (Resemblances to Costco or Sam's Club are purely coincidental.) It's more like a self-contained society than a place of employment, complete with its own hierarchy of workers.
At the bottom is Zack (Dane Cook, right), a "boxboy" who slacks off at every opportunity and is content not to rise in the ranks despite nearly a decade of working in the same position. On the elite side is Vince (Dax Shepard, left), a creepy overachiever who is head cashier and 17-time defending Employee of the Month.
Circumstances intensify when Amy (Jessica Simpson) arrives. She's a recent transfer with a reputation for dating the Employee of the Month, and the competition begins. The rivalry here is better and funnier than in School for Scoundrels. Cook (a:F6 himself) manages to ditch his stand-up persona to play a grounded and likeable leading man, but I think Shepard might get more career mileage from his convincing portrayal of a massive tool.
Despite the potentially soul-sucking presences of Simpson, Harland Williams, and Andy Dick, the movie manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. Credit the filmmakers with excellent pacing and restraint; the movie feels light and unforced, with no gross-out humor. Aside from some cursing, the movie's clean.