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Film Review: ‘Get a Job’

This long-shelved comedy proves a disappointing mix of onscreen talent, uneven social satire and juvenile humor.

Miles Teller, Anna Kendrick, Bryan Cranston, Nicholas Braun, Brandon T. Jackson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Alison Brie, Marcia Gay Harden, Jorge Garcia, Bruce Davison, Parker Contreras, Megan Gallagher, Mimi Gianopulos, Jay Pharaoh, Ethan Dizon, Greg Germann, Seth Morris, Cameron Richardson, John C. McGinley, John Cho.

Hectic but unfunny, “Get a Job” has had a difficult history: It was shot four years ago but sat on the shelf, presumably due to big changes at CBS Films. That means its satire of employment-world anxiety is already somewhat dated, though on the plus side, its various cast members (including then-little-known lead Miles Teller) have since seen their marquee value strengthen. Not much of that will matter, however, as the pic’s strenuously misfired mix of broadly treated social issues and uninspired comedic raunch is being kick-dropped with little fanfare into VOD platforms and scattered theatrical gigs by Lionsgate Premiere. The roll call of familiar on-screen talents should make this a decent home-format seller, though it’s nobody’s finest hour.

The first produced screenplay by Kyle Pennekamp and Scott Turpel may well have seemed bright and busy on paper, but the end result looks all too much like a jumble of clashing ideas that have all been better explored elsewhere. Just out of college, Will Davis (Teller) finds that his history of gold stars and trivial triumphs (he’s an Ultimate Frisbee champ) are ill preparation for the working world. Two summers interning at the L.A. Weekly come to nought when his promised job is downsized out of existence. After a couple of low-end false starts, he does land a position making video resumes for an “executive placement firm” where Bruce Davison plays the CEO. His attempts to get creative hit a brick wall in the form of Marcia Gay Harden’s VP, who returns from a hiatus to whip everyone back in line, Cruella de Vil-style.

Meanwhile, Will’s more practical-minded girlfriend, Jillian (Anna Kendrick), gets hired as a junior sales analyst, but finds the bottom rung of the corporate ladder unfulfilling. The bros he shares a house with likewise have to settle for less: Stoner Charlie (Nicholas Braun) proves a haplessly unsuitable middle-school teacher, Luke (Brandon T. Jackson) is humiliated as a trading floor’s newest clerk/errand boy, and Ethan (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) can’t get companies interested in the admittedly vile app he’s invented. Worse, Will’s die-hard workaholic optimist of a dad (Bryan Cranston) is thrown for a crippling loop when his hyper-efficiency actually renders his own post irrelevant after 30 years’ service. Trying to get interviews, he finds no one in today’s corporate culture willing to even consider his record or skills — they just see an old man.

There’s potential in these plot strands, but “Get a Job” continually fritters it away striking crude teen-sex-comedy notes, as if afraid taking its themes halfway seriously for a moment might be too much of a turnoff. Unfortunately, gags about Luke having to guzzle a Mason jar of deer semen (you know, that widespread office-promotion ritual), Alison Brie’s horndog HR recruiter, a new personal scent called Sweat, etc., just feel strained.

Unable to decide whether it’s “Porky’s Gets Hired” or a bittersweet satire about millennials and the devolving workplace, “Get a Job” does a poor job trying to be both. When Will starts out informing us his first memories were of “Feeling special. The first time I pooped, there was applause,” the movie appears headed toward a critique of an over-coddled generation shocked that the working world doesn’t appreciate their uniqueness. (There are a few pointed if obvious moments, as when he nearly blows an important interview by taking personal calls in the middle of it.) Yet at the close he’s chirping, “Don’t just feel special. Be special!” By then, the movie has contradicted itself on so many levels that its final gesture — presenting a whopping, ethically grotesque sellout as a triumph of entrepreneurial individuality — doesn’t even feel ironic. It’s just one more way the film strikes out while trying to cover every base.

Full of expert performers (also including John C. McGinley, Jorge Garcia, John Cho, Greg Germann, Seth Morris, Jay Pharaoh and others), all of whom have seen better material, “Get a Job” is brisk and slick but soulless. It was presumably a work-for-hire for helmer Dylan Kidd, who wrote or co-wrote his prior features (the justifiably acclaimed “Roger Dodger” and the underseen “P.S.”). While he provides surface energy, he can’t supply conviction or comic inspiration. Tech/design aspects are solid enough.

Film Review: 'Get a Job'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, March 25, 2016. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 82 MIN.

Production: A Lionsgate Premiere release of a CBS Films presentation of a Double Feature Films production. Produced by Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher. Executive producers, Tracy McGrath, Josh Rothstein.

Crew: Directed by Dylan Kidd. Screenplay, Kyle Pennekamp, Scott Turpel. Camera (color, HD), David Hennings; editor, Jeff Betancourt; music, Jonathan Sadoff; music supervisors, Liz Lawson, Danny Zook, Todd Sullivan; production designer, Marcia Hinds; art director, Jason Zev Cohen; set decorator, Cindy Coburn; costume designer, Christine Wada; sound, Steven A. Morrow; supervising sound editors, Henry Auerbach, Ryan collins; re-recording mixer, Chris David; assistant director, Stephen Hagen; casting, Sarah Halley Finn.

With: Miles Teller, Anna Kendrick, Bryan Cranston, Nicholas Braun, Brandon T. Jackson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Alison Brie, Marcia Gay Harden, Jorge Garcia, Bruce Davison, Parker Contreras, Megan Gallagher, Mimi Gianopulos, Jay Pharaoh, Ethan Dizon, Greg Germann, Seth Morris, Cameron Richardson, John C. McGinley, John Cho.

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