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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Company Man (review)

It’s a cold, cold, cold, cold war in this retro satire from writer/directors Peter Askin and Douglas McGrath. The year is 1959 — “a good time to be a white American male” — and nebbishy prep-school teacher and sometimes driver’s ed instructor Allen Quimp (McGrath: The Insider) is delightfully bewildered to find his fantasy of being an undercover CIA agent become reality, in hilariously unlikely a manner. And then things really turn absurd, wonderfully so: on assignment to Cuba, Quimp unwittingly uncovers an agency mole (or does he?) and foments revolution. Just how did a grammar specialist with the CIA set in motion the Bay of Pigs invasion? “Based,” ahem, “on some true events,” Company Man is like a smarter Top Secret or Police Squad for History Channel buffs, and everyone on board is having such a good time that it’s easy to forgive some of the bumps along the way: Sigourney Weaver (Galaxy Quest) as Quimp’s demanding wife, Daisy, is a hoot; Denis Leary (Jesus’ Son), as an exasperated colleague of Quimp’s, is the usual deadpan delight; John Turturro (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) as a deranged commando is unexpectedly funny; and Anthony LaPaglia (The House of Mirth) as Fidel Castro and Alan Cumming (Urbania) as General Batista just run with their over-the-top characterizations. Some moments stretch on awkwardly too long, and the film is roughly edited in spots, but how can you not love a movie featuring the Greenwich (CT) Junior League vying to be more ruthless than the CIA? A smart comedy melding cold-war paranoia and pre-feminism gender roles that only intermittently succeeds is far more welcome than yet another big, loud, juvenile attempt to make us laugh.


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MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual humor and drug content

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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