Employee of the Month Lacks Originality (Alex's Take)
by Alex Billington
October 6, 2006
Employee of the Month brings together plenty of inspiration and jokes from a bountiful selection of other comedy greats, but the whole here is much less than the sum of its parts. After a hilarious first half, the film degrades to a predictable mush no more worthy than any of the other mediocre comedies that are being put out this year. What does make Employee of the Month stand out is its inclusion of some of the greatest on-screen and on-stage comedians around: Dane Cook, Andy Dick and Harland Williams. These three provide the laughs in what few memorable moments Employee of the Month offers moviegoers.
Employee of the Month centers around a few stereotypical employees at the gigantic bulk-discount retailer Super Club. Zack (Cook), a low-profile "box boy" who hardly does any work is accompanied by three friends Russell (Williams), Lon (Dick), and Iqbal (Brian George). Zack's nemesis is Vince (Dax Shepard), the head cashier who was just named employee of the month for the 17th consecutive time, who in turn is followed closely by his Mexican sidekick Jorge (Efren Ramirez). A rivalry heats up as Amy (Jessica Simpson), a gorgeous new cashier, begins working at the Super Club and both Zack and Vince set their sights on winning her heart.
The first half of Employee of the Month is one hilarious scene after another, a wildly enjoyable experience with some of the greatest comedians around. The story then wears thin as we watch Zack and Vince compete for one gold star every day for 30 days. Where this year's Clerks II started and ended at the same level of constant hilarity, Employee of the Month too quickly falls into the typical trap of the romantic story. Much of the scenes in the end become too elaborate and drawn out and lose that tight comedy that was so entertaining throughout the first half. Employee of the Month could be described, in the words of the late Mitch Hedberg, as being "like pancakes: all exciting at first but by the end you're sick of them."
Employee of the Month begs to be compared with several other recent comedies. Dane Cook's group of friends is similar to Steve Carell's dynamic and eccentric group of friends in The 40 Year Old Virgin. Much of the story and progression is comparable with that of a Todd Phillips movie such as Old School or School for Scoundrels, with the eventual focus on romantic elements and the inclusion of a clichÃ©d sports scene. Zack's character was also vaguely reminiscent of the poorly-received Grandma's Boy from earlier in the year. And to top it off, a joke from the Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs was also included, compiling a medley of seemingly great comedy. However this did not leave much room for director Greg Coolidge to bring in much of his own originality or creativity.
Although Harland Williams and Andy Dick really lead most of the laughs, Dane Cook puts in a noteworthy performance in Employee of the Month. Dane Cook is one of the funniest stand-up comedians around, but this wasn't his best work. He clearly wasn't giving this movie his best effort and it shows. One of the most amusing characters is the appropriately-named Semi (Marcello Thedford), a rotund security guard with the softest voice and rather slow mental capabilities. Every moment he's around, you know he'll provide the most subtle humor and that he'll have you falling out of your seat laughing.
Employee of the Month starts great but ends much too late on a flat note. It has some of the greatest comedians around, and they provided some of the most hilarious moments, but there was so much wasted potential. Director Greg Coolidge did do a great job in combining inspirations from many of the other great comedies out there, but in the end forgot to give his own personal touch and creativity. What started out sprinting ending up tripping right into a typical predictable comedy, still worth its laughs but not much more.