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The Promotion (2008)
Dimension Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/2/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/31/2008
Most sub-genres are easy to name, such as black-comedy, historical-drama, or supernatural-horror. But, there's one class of film that I don't know the name of. These films are marketed as comedies, but that's not exactly true. They usually feature two characters who, during the course of the film, are set at odds and then spend the movie attempting to undermine one another. These movies typically aspire to one primary goal -- to make the audience uncomfortable -- and they usually succeed. And for some reason, Ben Stiller is often in these movies, such as Meet the Parents or Duplex. Whatever we want to call this genre -- mean-spirited-comedy? -- the quirky film The Promotion definitely falls into this category.
Seann William Scott stars in The Promotion as Doug Stauber, who is an assistant manager at a Donaldson's grocery store in Chicago. He doesn't really like his job, especially when he has to patrol the parking lot or sort the customer comment cards, but he sticks to it. When he notes that a new Donaldson's is being built in the area, his manager, Scott Fargas (Fred Armisen), says that Doug should be a "shoe in" for manager of that site, and this excites Doug and his wife, Jen (Jenna Fischer). One day, Doug arrives at work to find that a new assistant manager, Richard Welhner (John C. Reilly), has joined the ranks. Richard is a transfer from Canada and Doug immediately feels threatened by him. Things get worse when Richard also expresses interest in manning the new store. At first, Doug wants to play fair, but as things progress, and Doug gets caught in one odd situation after another, he decides that he will do anything to get that new job.
The Promotion is an odd little film. At first glance, it looks like any other comedy where two character are truly out to get one another. We are introduced to two very different people who have the same goal, and then we sit back and watch them go at it. The action in the movie is little different from some of the antics seen in Keeping the Faith, Rushmore, or There's Something About Mary. We see both Doug and Richard lie and manipulate in an attempt to get the upper-hand with the board, which is led by Mitch (Gil Bellows).
The problem with The Promotion is that it never settles into a groove. It's ironic that I mentioned Rushmore above, was The Promotion plays like a standard out-to-get-each-other comedy, as if Wes Anderson directed it. There are many odd, off-kilter moments in the film, and the in-film songs rarely accurately reflect the on-screen action. The characters are beyond quirky and the viewer will feel at arm's length at times. The also never seems to decide which story it wants to tell. Some of the movie is about the challenge of working in a grocery store, and the amount of crap that the employees must take. Other parts of the film are about Doug's relationship with Jen. But, the main focus of the film wants to be the competition.
The film's speed-bumps don't stop it from being entertaining at times. There are definitely some laugh-out-loud moments here and some clever dialogue. The movie really gets its strength from its cast. Seann William Scott continues to attempt to grow away from Stifler, and his restrained performance makes him the straight man here. John C. Reilly turns in another unique performance and he nails the Canadian accent and quirky mannerisms of his character. Some of the biggest laughs come from Fred Armisen, who once again shines in a small role. There is also a cameo from a star of Arrested Development which is very good.
I really wanted to like The Promotion, and as noted above, there were parts which were truly entertaining. However, the movie wanders at times and wants to put too much emphasis on the fact that neither Doug or Richard are bad guys, but that they are simply driven. This approach may be realistic, but it sucks some of the energy out of the film.
The Promotion attempts to get noticed on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and only a few small defects from the source material. The film was shot in a very natural style and the colors look great. (Just look at all of the colorful items on the store shelves.) One odd note, I noticed changes in focus more in this film than in any other of recent memory. Any rack focus would make the entire screen move. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, especially those around the characters in the store. We also get some very mild surround sound effects. But, overall, this track is pretty lackluster. Granted, we get the dialogue and that's the most important part, but we get little in the way of dynamic sound.
The Promotion DVD contains a nice stock-room of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Dirctor Steven Conrad and Producers Jessika Borsiczky & Steven A. Jones. This is an interesting talk as, apparently, everyone in Chicago appears in this film. The trio talks about the locations, the actors, and all of the cameos in the movie. We learn about the supermarket set and John Reilly's eccentricities. The DVD contains six DELETED SCENES, which run about 8 minutes. Some of these are extended scenes, and only two are completely new, and these do present some interesting ideas. "Making The Promotion" (19 minutes) has Conrad revealing the inspiration for the film. From there, we get comments from Conrad and the cast about the story and the characters. The actors then share their impressions of Conrad. "The Promotional Webisodes" features five shorts which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movies. For short pieces, these are awfully tedious and not very funny. The DVD has a 3-minute "Outtakes" reel. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the movie.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long