EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (Greg Coolidge, 2006)
In EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH rumor has it that the new buxom, blonde cashier at bulk retailer Super Club has a thing for the staff member honored every thirty days. Zack (Dane Cook), a lackadaisical box boy, takes the information to heart and strives to unseat Vince (Dax Shepard), a flashy checkout worker who has won the award seventeen months in a row. As if hooking up with Amy (Jessica Simpson) isn’t ample motivation, Vince can win a “new-ish” car by extending his streak another month.
Cook is the stand-up comic of the moment, although there’s little in EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH to explain why he’s currently one of the hottest names in comedy. He exhibits some scruffy appeal as Zack, who’s a mix of a calmer, less pathetic Adam Sandler character and a less obnoxious version of Ryan Reynolds’ WAITING… troublemaker, but mostly he plays the straight man to the wacky supporting cast. Surrounded by a who’s who of scene-stealing comic actors (Andy Dick, Harland Williams, Efren Ramirez a.k.a. Pedro in NAPOLEON DYNAMITE), Cook stands in the middle of the zaniness rather than participate in it.
He receives no assistance from Simpson, who’s good at spilling out of her low-cut clothing and nothing more. Aside from her prominently framed physical attributes, she’s a blank on screen. It’s telling that EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH tends to cut to reaction shots during her lines.
EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH shares more than a passing resemblance with WAITING…, that odious comedy about casual dining servers, and wants to recall OFFICE SPACE, the king of modern workplace comedies. Those films established a good sense of the daily slog and indignities in the jobs whereas EMPLOYEE fails to take full advantage of its megamart setting. The film could have used more scenes like the big bagging competition and an after hours date a la CAREER OPPORTUNITIES. This Noah’s ark of merchandise gets ignored for jokes about a pneumatic tube messaging system and a plush cashier’s-only lounge.
Messages are an afterthought in films like EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, yet it’s mildly distressing that here the underlying theme is that it’s better to eliminate all ambition and stick with one’s friends than try to improve one’s station. Rising through the chain of command and keeping old relationships aren’t mutually exclusive, but the film would have us believe that bettering one’s self means abandoning buddies. Talk about keeping the working man down.