Freshly scrubbed and a little on the bony side, Topher Grace looks like a puppy that needs feeding, and he brings out the maternal instinct in all of us. But "That '70s Show" is winding down, and it's time to add depth. In Good Company, where he plays a corporate shark with no teeth whatsoever, is Grace's coming-out party. He's ready to be taken seriously as a boy-next-door everyman Ã la Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Tom Hanks and Michael J. Fox. But although the movie has a bit of a bite to it, especially for those of us circling the Big Five-O, inside its candy-coated shell is a soft, chewy center. This stuff can cause cavities.
Dennis Quaid anchors the movie as Dan Foreman, an ad-sales manager for a Sports Illustrated-like magazine that's been bought by a conglomerate. Expecting to coast into retirement, Dan's instead introduced to his new boss, Carter Duryea, who's half his age and can't stop using the word "synergy." This might have made for some enjoyable father/son-ish conflict. And to sweeten the deal, writer-director Paul Weitz adds a subplot where Carter winds up in bed with Dan's daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johanssen, looking way too glamorous). But the movie seems almost afraid of true conflict, as if that might chase the audience away.
The touchstones are Billy Wilder's The Apartment and Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire, where the whole business-before-pleasure philosophy got a sound beating. And In Good Company has its moments, like when it's hanging around the office, watching the "dinosaurs" ward off extinction. But why is Grace's character so hopelessly hapless from the beginning? Don't puppies have teeth, too?