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Employee of the Month

Worse Than It Has Any Right To Be

Directed and co-written by Greg Coolidge (Queen for a Day), Employee of the Month promises, at least from the ads and trailers, to offer well-aimed (and probably well-deserved) satire in the direction of Wal-Mart and the other superstore chains that provide low-cost, low-price cheap goods to American consumers. Unfortunately, even that relatively modest expectation falls by the wayside quickly as Employee of the Month haphazardly devolves into a lazily scripted, mostly unfunny comedy about a slacker waking up from a decade long slumber and rediscovering that a meaningful life involves close friends and family, and, of course, a romantic relationship with the woman of his dreams.

Zack (Dane Cook), a slacker in his early thirties still lives with his grandmother (Barbara Dodd Ramsen) and “works” as a box boy at the Super Club, a Wal-Mart-like big box store, i.e. hangs with his best friends, Russell (Harland Williams), Iqbal (Brian George), and Lon (Andy Dick), during work hours at their special club tucked away on the store’s premises. Zack’s honed the fine art of avoiding work and harassing the reigning employee of the month and head cashier, Vince (Dax Shepard). Not surprisingly, the Super Club’s manager, Glen Gary (Tim Bagley), holds up Vince as the model employee for everyone to emulate. Vince’s personal box boy, Jorge (Efren Ramirez), is also his number one fan.

Everything changes, however, once Amy (Jessica Simpson), a cashier transferring in from another store, arrives at the Super Club. Zack discovers that Amy will only date the “employee of the month”. Hoping to gain Amy’s affection, Zack decides to clean up his act and make a run at the employee of the month. However, Vince has a lock on it, having won the semi-coveted award 17 times in a row. If Vince wins the award one more time, he’ll get a semi-new Chevy Malibu. Vince is also interested in Amy. Zack’s chances don’t look good, at least not at first, but his newfound desire to excel begins to change things in his favor with bosses and a newly interested Amy.

Story wise, Zack’s journey takes him from passive, self-centered, ambition-free slacker to ambitious, model employee with a claim to Amy’s heart. Of course, with success come an even larger ego, which results in the slow-motion dissolution of his relationship with Russell, Iqbal, and Lon, and back again, as he re-learns the values of loyalty, friendship, and honesty. In short, family and friends first, career ambitions (however limited) second. It’s not a lesson that more cynical moviegoers will care about. Nor is the blunt-edged satire aimed at low-cost superstores particularly originally or engaging enough to carry Employee of the Month past the half-hour mark.

Then again, that’s not why anyone will pay to see Employee of the Month. Audiences want and expect liberal doses of verbal and physical humor. The verbal humor consists mostly of the lowbrow, let’s-not-try-very-hard variety, ranging from a tiresome fart joke to Zack’s grandmother's tendency to use inappropriate language. Most of the humor that does works centers on Vince and Jorge’s thinly veiled homoerotic relationship, but even that grows thin the fifth or sixth time we revisit the same jokes.

Performance wise, Dax Shepard shows decent comic timing (he also has all the best lines), but not much else. Dane Cook is both bland and forgettable, as is most of the supporting cast, who often look distraught at delivering such poorly written, unfunny dialogue. Singer-turned-actress Jessica Simpson doesn’t do much except shine her brilliantly white teeth while wearing cleavage-exposing tops and frowning slightly every time she’s about to deliver dialogue containing more than two or three sentences. Which leads us back to where we started, a lazily written, painfully unfunny film that will most likely (and ironically) disappear into a bargain bin at a local superstore in about two months time.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars