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In Good Company

Male bonding all the rage in lightweight fairytale

If director Paul Weitz's About a Boy told the delightful tale of a 12-year-old's relationship with a cynical, immature young man, his latest offering, In Good Company, takes the next logical step, documenting a fast-talking, 26-year-old whiz kid's uneasy partnership with Dan Foreman, a square-jawed sales executive at the fictional Sports America magazine.

At 51, Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is an old-timer, representing values that have become obsolete in the cutthroat corporate world: loyalty, honesty and attentiveness to detail. (Would it surprise you that he's also an all-American family man, the very personification of grit and valor?) The reward for his years of hard work is, naturally, a demotion, as Foreman is forced to swallow his pride and fork over his corner office to Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), a brash youngster and self-proclaimed "ninja assassin" who's sprinting up the corporate ladder too quickly.

Is Duryea the right man to lead a team of graying advertising execs? Not at first. He's a hustler, an overnight sensation in the business world who's earned his reputation peddling cellphones to teenagers, but it's immediately clear that he lacks the maturity and skills to lead. And though he's far too self-assured to recognize those shortcomings, Foreman isn't. Together, they gradually develop a father-son relationship -- strained at first by professional rivalries, but facilitated and ultimately fueled by trust and mutual respect. With Foreman navigating him through the shark-infested waters of the corporate world, Duryea finds his way and, at long last, becomes an adult.

A full-length feature could have focused exclusively on this relationship, satirizing the brutal capitalist culture that would promote an overgrown child past an aging, reliable workhorse, but In Good Company is more of a fairytale that wants to spread the love. Naturally, Duryea falls in love with Foreman's beautiful daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johansson), while Foreman's wife informs her just-demoted beau that there's a baby on the way. And wouldn't you know that there's a sunny ending in store for all of them?

That's not such a bad thing, though it does test the limits of the imagination. In Good Company lacks the incisive wit, dry humor and Nick Hornby-inspired script that informed About a Boy, but it's got an irresistible charm, thanks in no small part to Grace, whose energetic performance at once belies his character's brazen arrogance and hidden insecurities. His on-screen chemistry with Quaid, who's made a cottage industry of playing the quintessential American Hero, is a joy to witness -- and a necessary component in this earnest ode to male bonding.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5