The Promotion (2008)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Workplace Comedy  |   Release Date - Jun 6, 2008 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Even with Judd Apatow's name appearing nowhere on it, The Promotion has the flavor of an Apatow film -- due in part to the presence of Apatow collaborators John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer, but also because the writer/director/producer's stamp seemed to be on all mainstream comedies released circa 2008. However, a number of things anchor The Promotion in the hit-and-miss world of independent comedy, most notably, its serious case of multiple-protagonist disorder. This supermarket comedy starts out as the story of Seann William Scott's managerial hopeful, whose perspective is pretty much cemented by the fact that he narrates the film. As classically structured, Reilly would play his rival as a backstabbing kiss-ass, whose surface polish masks his nasty soul. Weirdly, though, Reilly's character quickly becomes the butt of more practical jokes than the supposed protagonist -- some of them instigated by Scott's character himself -- and the audience is forced into the strange position of rooting against the underdog. Truth is, both candidates are really underdogs for this position, which gets at the underlying falsity of the setup. Neither the naïve simpleton who has only half recovered from a serious drug problem, nor the guy with temper problems who Maces a teenage punk in the parking lot without just cause would ever be considered for the top job at an upscale grocery chain's new flagship store. In fact, they'd probably be lucky to stick around as stock boys. The Promotion is cast well, also featuring Jason Bateman, Fred Armisen, and Lili Taylor as Reilly's inexplicably Irish wife, but writer-director Steven Conrad just doesn't provide a well-structured story on which to drape their talents. Mix in some uncomfortable racial politics related to the Macing incident, and The Promotion is a mixed bag, to put it generously.