The latest in a long line of lowbrow slacker comedies of the Clerks persuasion, Employee Of The Month is funnier and smarter than most of its contemporaries. Set in an anonymous department store, the film follows a no-holds barred contest between amiable box-boy Zack (Dane Cook) and overachieving cashier Vince (Dax Shepard) for the love of a blonde hottie (Jessica Simpson) who is rumoured to only sleep with the Employee of the Month winner.
Trite as this set-up might sound, the film manages to have a great deal of fun with the petty brown-nosing and enforced happiness of corporate culture, while still dropping in a few fart gags to keep the frat boys amused. Cook is an endearing hero - too endearing really, there's never any doubt that he will defeat the obnoxious Shepard and win the girl. Suspense having gone out of the window, the plot straggles along as our opponents play increasingly dirty tricks on each other, using the store's merchandise - everything from go-karts to 12 gauge shotguns - as their ammunition.
"FLIRTING WITH OFFENSIVENESS"
Supporting performances are fun caricatures that flirt with offensiveness to good effect, from the myopic optician, unaware that he is staring at everyone's breasts, to the furious dwarf that runs the company. It's rather less amusing, mind you, to see the only black character portrayed as an unmitigated moron. While we're picking holes, 108 minutes is a seriously inflated running time for a story that could comfortably be told in 70, and even the splendid obstacle-course finale isn't enough to prevent restlessness from setting in at the cinema. Save it for a DVD night.
Employee Of The Month is released in UK cinemas on Friday 5th January 2007.