Employee of the Month's main character, thirtysomething box boy Zack (Dane Cook
), relishes having a job with the least amount of responsibility. When the Costco-like store where he works hires a new, comely cashier (Jessica Simpson
) who has a history for hooking up with the employee of the month, Zack decides to try harder so he can win her affection.
Too bad the movie never follows Zack's example. For 103 minutes, Employee of the Month refuses to go beyond shallow observations and silly slapstick, making for an ordinary outing when that should not be the case. Anyone who has ever worked in retail (or seen Clerks) knows there's a wealth of material for a good comedy. When I managed a used bookstore, a customer argued her case for a lower price by repeatedly stating that she was "a lawyer." At Borders, I had another customer so convinced we carried International Male (we didn't) that he was threatened with police action. Also at Borders, I have never worked with so many people who had visible tattoos, including one who had a small image of a pen and book on her lower back. Article continues below
A better cast could have given the material a good jolt. Let's take a look at the movie's three leads: Dax Shepard
, Simpson, and Cook. As Cook's nemesis, the primping, cocky cashier Vince, Shepard plays the douche bag with self-serious enthusiasm, but he acts with too much of an ironic bent. After her God-awful performance in The Dukes of Hazzard, it's a triumph that Simpson can convincingly portray a carbon-based life form. It's also an asset that here she's not smothered in three layers of bronzer.
Cook might be one of many stand-up comics not meant for a movie career. Look at Chris Rock
, one of the funniest people on the planet, a man who can be simultaneously profound, profane, and hilarious. Most of his movie work is dreadful because he's never found the proper vehicle for his humor. Cook's role could have been played by any mildly funny, handsome guy aged 25 to 35. He's likable and affable, but you get the feeling his talent could be better utilized elsewhere, like on stage. A quote from an interview this year suggests where his comfort level is. "I wanted to create a stage persona for myself that allowed me to really speak on anything I want... So I can be a storyteller, I can be jokey, I can be corny, I can be a little vulgar, I can be a lot vulgar. And I'm not afraid to go anywhere to get the point of the joke across."
Dane Cook is the most popular stand-up comic in America today, a reign that usually doesn't last too long (remember Dana Carvey). He might want to work on retaining that crown, instead of starring in mediocre movies that don't highlight his appeal, and worse, don't get many jokes across.