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Saturday, June 2, 2012

DEMOTED -- DVD review by porfle




Watching DEMOTED (2011) labor overtime to be like an irreverent combination of OFFICE SPACE, ANIMAL HOUSE, M*A*S*H, and 9-TO-5 is almost as tiring as putting in a full day's work yourself.  Especially since this lame comedy has none of the wit and imagination of the films it's emulating.

Seeing David Cross' big head on the DVD box had me anticipating a lot more from this one, being a devoted fan of the great HBO series "Mr. Show with Bob [Odenkirk] and David."  Indeed, Cross gets to play one of his nerdy-yet-overbearing characters to the hilt here, giving DEMOTED just about its only entertainment value.  But even Dave can't overcome a script that doesn't actually give him much to do or say that's actually funny. 

He plays office drone Ken Castro, a salesman for Treadline Tire Company who is forever being mocked and belittled by bully boys Rodney (Michael Vartan) and Mike (Sean Astin).  Rodney and Mike are the company's best salesmen, but when head honcho Bob Farrell (Robert Klein) kicks the bucket and a gloating Ken lands his position as boss, the two hotshots are demoted from salesmen to secretaries. 

I liked and identified with Ken right away, but we're not supposed to--we're meant to hate him and side with Rodney and Mike, the "cool" guys (think Hawkeye and Trapper vs. Frank Burns), instead of the other way around.  So as the story trudges along, Ken's character gets progressively more irritating, inept, and bigoted while Rodney and Mike develop a new Ghandi-like empathy and respect for their fellow secretaries whom they once treated like chattel.  (I still liked Ken better.)

When Ken has their modest breakroom-slash-storage closet demolished (during which a scene straight out of ANIMAL HOUSE is reenacted), it's last-straw time with the former bully boys leading their new female comrades in a revolt that includes a scene straight out of M*A*S*H in which Ken's trip to the bathroom results in public humiliation.  The trouble is, the bland direction achieves no build-up and payoff to elicit M*A*S*H-level laughs--it just happens, and Cross is forced to flop around on a wet floor with his pants down while we're expected to finally give up and laugh.  And that's the film's comedy highlight.

The dialogue is equally unfunny, as when Rodney reels off this one-liner to Ken:  "Good morning, Kenny.  How's your ass?  Was your boyfriend gentle on you last night?"  Michael Vartan's lack of appeal as the lead doesn't help, including a lengthy subplot concerning his impending marriage to Jennifer (Sara Foster), who doesn't know he's been demoted, and his abrasive relationship with her overbearing father, J.R. (Patrick St. Esprit), who, in another comedy highlight, forces Michael to gaze at his pecker in the men's room to prove he's the alpha male of the two. 

Sean Astin can be likably funny with the right material, but he doesn't get it here.  Not even when he's advising a fellow secretary that a blowjob is the perfect anniversary gift for her boyfriend.  As Bob Farrell, Robert Klein proves once again that whatever appeal he has as a stand-up comedian doesn't carry over well to movie roles, particularly when he's pole-dancing drunk in his underwear.  Celia Weston does her best as head secretary Jane, who exists mainly to appreciate how wonderful Rodney and Mike are when they acknowledge the other secretaries as human beings.

A series of boring song montages clutter the already thin plot and seem to be trying to make the story heartwarming at times, which, needless to say, doesn't work.  An equally fruitless attempt at "cute" comes when Mike starts scoring romantic points with a female executive (Constance Zimmer) that leads to a bowling date and lots of smiling.  Direction and editing often appear to be done by people who have never seen a comedy before but have had one described to them. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  There are no extras.

It's hard to screw up a comedy in which David Cross plays a major role as an egotistical dweeb, but DEMOTED tries its best to do so and succeeds.  The most suitable tagline I can think of for this failed effort would be: "If you liked OFFICE SPACE...just watch it again." 


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