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In Good Company

Release date: Dec. 29

Distributor: Universal

Most comedies are so formulaic that it’s a good sign when, 20 minutes into a film, the audience has no idea what’s going to happen. In fact, writer-director Paul Weitz has added so many subtle curves, twists and reversals to “In Good Company” that people won’t know the characters’ fates until the last frame.

Two years ago, both Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and Writers Guild of America voters appreciated Weitz’s work on “About a Boy,” as he, brother Chris, and Peter Hedges earned adapted screenplay nominations from both groups.

“Good Company” is an original work, in more ways than one. The story concerns a 51-year-old magazine ad exec (Dennis Quaid) who discovers that a 26-year-old (Topher Grace) is his boss — and happens to be sleeping with his daughter. It sounds like the setup for a wacky David Spade comedy, but the film becomes much funnier and sadder than that.

It’s a 21st-century “The Graduate,” if Benjamin Braddock had taken a job in plastics and only then began to wonder if it was the right decision. Weitz makes sharp observations about corporate life, as executives enthuse about synergy and the bottom line while employees get demoralized by downsizing, buyouts and mergers. Universal, a film company with four different corporate owners in the past decade, deserves credit for making this film. It addresses onscreen things that people at other studios only talk about in their offices.

The tech contributions are polished, the performances terrific, including Scarlett Johansson as the daughter. But with crowded acting races and some lavish spectacles this year, kudos attention is likely to focus on Weitz’s work.

But there’s a big “if” awaiting “Good Company.” Pic is scheduled to open Dec. 29, two days after Oscar ballots are mailed out. It’s always a danger when a little film opens in a crowded year-end field. Will kudo voters have time to discover this one?

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