Dane Cook -- that most slippery of hot commodities, always in line for sitcom pilots and feature films that never pan out -- finally finds a starring vehicle in the slack romantic comedy Employee of the Month. If he were just being choosy, it wasn't worth the wait. In fact, by the October 2006 release of this film, Cook backlash was already in full swing -- which was partly responsible for its poor showing, no doubt. But no public souring on Cook can take full credit, as the uninspired script is just another "gregarious slacker tries to get girl while confronting bully" workplace comedy. Cook's natural charisma is paired with the decidedly stiff presence of Jessica Simpson, who's given little to do but react and look pretty. Furthermore, Dax Shepard, here sporting a ridiculous peroxide hairdo, seems to be carving out a niche playing either dim or nefarious characters who grate on the audience (characteristics that actually served him well in the underappreciated Idiocracy). The problem with casting Cook as the affable lead is that it doesn't utilize the talents that got the comedian noticed in the first place -- his loose-limbed physicality and manic playfulness. The Cook we see here is neutered, perhaps in the interest of following the easy path to movie stardom, rather than the harder but more rewarding one. The creators of Employee of the Month have certainly studied the successful comedies they want to emulate, including surrounding Cook with an eclectic bunch of sidekicks who meet in a secret hangout among the boxes, reachable only by forklift. But this isn't 40-Year-Old Virgin territory -- it's more like "30-Minute Sitcom," stretched over 100 minutes, and without the laughs.
by Derek Armstrong review