Employee of the Month (2006) Review

Just because something follows form doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dissatisfying. When Ferrari makes a car we don’t say that it’s just like the Hyundai in the garage. It’s how you build upon the form that separates the boring from entertaining, Benz’ from Volkswagons and Employee of the Month from most romantic comedies.

Slacker Zack Bradley (Dane Cook) is a box boy at Super Club, a warehouse superstore like Costco. As the lowest man on the totem pole in Super Club hierarchy, Zack’s arch-nemesis is none other than the number one cashier, Vince Downey (Dax Shepard), who is not only the fastest Super Club cashier, but also the employee of the month for 17 straight months. Zack has no intention of dethroning Vince until Amy (Jessica Simpson) transfers in and is rumored to sleep with the employee of the month. With such a great reward (including a newish Chevy Malibu), Zack and Vince pull no punches as they fight for the coveted title.

OK, so the romance part is fairly predictable. No one wants to see Boy get Girl just so he can sleep with her. That’s why he has to lose her to teach him a lesson, only to get her back when he becomes the kind of Boy we all want him to be. Predictable. Straightforward. Fine. If the movie had been just the romance, it would have failed. Fortunately, the comedy is here in spades to bolster the thin romantic plot.

What the writers have done is create an entire subculture of warehouse life. Zack and friends have a fully furnished private room constructed entirely out of pallets. The human resources staff give up employee files for broken, non-salable candy. Cashiers have access to a highly coveted private lounge decked out in plush leather furniture and where the soda cans aren’t dented. These are the comedic nuances that only those who have worked similar jobs will be able to appreciate. It’s absurd. It’s over the top. It’s everything you want out of comedy in a movie like this. The woman buying a coffin was a nice touch. They really do sell everything at those warehouse places!

To be honest, while the romance gets the job done, it’s also the weak link in the movie. There is seemingly no challenge for Zack. It’s obvious that Amy likes him early on and they seem to be dating by halfway through the movie. Winning employee of the month almost seems like a moot point. Moreover, our hero isn’t punished enough for his selfish acts. In fact, it almost seems like he’s rewarded for them, because the people he forsook later benefit from the same actions that hurt them.

All of the acting here is serviceable, but Dax Shepard really stands out, giving the strongest performance and not simply playing himself. Yes, his character is really a caricature of a person, but it fits perfectly in the absurd context of the film. The scene where he tries to complete Amy’s sentences, but continually gets it wrong is not to be missed. In an age when grotesquenesses and real physical pain are enough to inspire laughter, it’s nice to see that scripted comedy is alive and well. A little more romance wouldn’t hurt either.