Pin It
Favorite

Take Two 

by Luke Bumgarten & r & & r & Employee of the Month & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & N & lt;/span & o one contemplates a pencil until the lead snaps. That's philosophy. A simple observation and a brilliant one. My own personal correlate goes like this: No one contemplates their sad existence until someone shows them a mirror. To draw, then, a conclusion based on those observations: Thoughtlessness is a warm, safe primal state. That's especially true when watching films aimed at connecting with the loser in all of us.





Employee of the Month is that kind of flick. Zack (Dane Cook, trying real hard to be Ryan Reynolds) is an affable burnout who, after a flirtation with entrepreneurial respectability that left his grandmother's retirement a shambles, decided he should just lay low, as a box boy at a Costco-esque bulk retailer. For a decade.





This unbroken chain of irresponsibility snaps when a hot new cashier named Amy (Jessica Simpson, who gets to butcher human emotion in hot half-second bursts before director Greg Coolidge's camera cuts away in terror) transfers in. Driven by either lust or the wickedest preschool crush in history (his motivations aren't clear) and the information that Amy only dates the employee of the month, Zack sets about wresting that title from perpetual winner Vince (Dax Shepherd, who frosted his tips to disguise the fact that he's a dead ringer for Zach Braff). Vince, as we expect, is an overachieving dim wit.





Slacker flicks have two speeds: lifestyle indulgence and satire. This is such a truism that these films have become second nature to people (slackers) of a certain age, like pencils with intact lead. Someone should talk to screenwriters Don Calame, Chris Conroy and Greg Coolidge, because Employee of the Month is an irreparably broken humor tool. And it's making me contemplate my existence. This is not enjoyable.





The film is 80 percent an indulgence of how, on just about all levels, people (males) of my generation (say 18 to 35) think they're geniuses who just don't care enough to do anything with their intellect. We could succeed mightily if we weren't scared of responsibility. Fearing responsibility is a mental state my peers and I are thoroughly comfortable with. The Zack character, then, should be our underachieving Everyman.





The writing, though, isn't content to stay dumb and hedonistic. It doesn't let us bask in our desire to choose responsibility lackadaisically, just so we can sleep with Jessica Simpson. Calame, Conroy and Coolidge keep wanting to inject satire into the mix, which destroys the patina of dumb-joke indulgence. That'd be fine if the rest of the film weren't so clich & eacute;d and perfunctory, which makes the satirical elements grate. Worse, their stabs at intelligence fail as much as they succeed: For every clever -- and understated -- nod to David Mamet, there's a misfiring indictment of workplace homophobia. (And seriously, nothing jars you out of the flow of a slacker flick like a Glengarry Glen Ross reference.)





The point of indulgence is to wallow in our slackerdom, and the point of satire is to feel we've transcended it, but an incompetent mix of the two just makes us (the affable underachievers) feel crappy about the holes we dig for ourselves. Employee of the Month fails the synthesis badly, suggesting we're also powerless to dig ourselves out. It's depressing, then, to watch the film try and try and ultimately fail to be better than it is, because it forces me (you, us) to confront the fact that my (your, our) generation can only demarcate between losers and winners with cynicism, snark and the occasional ability to turn a good phrase.





As such, it's one of the most illustrative cinematic failures of my (your, our) young generation.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Crash > Click > Cash
  • Crash > Click > Cash

    Lawyers and chiropractors already have your name, your address and the police report from your car accident — and they want you to hire them
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Starting Small
  • Starting Small

    A village of tiny houses in Spokane Valley could serve as a model for fighting homelessness in the region
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Drastic Action
  • Drastic Action

    Spokane among seven school districts sued by State Superintendent of Public Instruction; plus, trio of police-chief finalists are in town
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Spokane Artist Trading Card Swap

Spokane Artist Trading Card Swap @ Boots Bakery & Lounge

Last Wednesday of every month

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Lane Ends Ahead

    Spokane wants to improve a mile-long section of Monroe — but that means taking away two lanes
    • Jul 7, 2016
  • Too Smart for School

    What happens when a 12-year-old prodigy tries to go to college in Spokane?
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

green zone


marijuana


Briefs


election 2016


trail mix


Readers also liked…

  • Supply And Demand
  • Supply And Demand

    Spokane's methadone clinic expands as heroin addiction rises
    • Apr 22, 2015
  • The Contenders
  • The Contenders

    Candidates have filed to run for office in Spokane. Here's what's at stake
    • May 20, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation