This family comedy tries a little harder than most of Tim Allen's previous efforts, with the exception of the droll GALAXY QUEST, which was an entirely different kettle of aliens/fanboy stew. In fact, it has moments of genuine wit and pathos, one or two characters that are almost recognizable as real people (rather than sitcom archetypes), and a couple of sly comic performances. Unfortunately, in the end none of these virtues can completely compensate for the film's utterly conventional message of uplift. Let's face it: "To thine own self be true" is not exactly late breaking news. Nice-guy video producer Joe Scheffer (Allen) has been passed over repeatedly for a well-deserved promotion at the Minneapolis pharmaceutical firm where he works. Joe is also carrying a torch for his ex-wife Callie (Kelly Lynch) and is encumbered with Natalie (Hayden Panettiere), one of those preternaturally wise 12-year-old daughters that exist only in the movies. The plot gets kicked into gear when office bully Mark McKinney (Patrick Warburton) takes Joe's parking space and then proceeds to kick his nice-guy butt in front of both Natalie and assorted co-workers. Humiliated, Joe has a minor breakdown and then demands a re-match, embarking on a quest for redemption that involves a fashion make-over and (more importantly) martial arts instruction from Chuck Scarrett (Jim Belushi), a washed-up action star-turned-karate teacher. Along the way, Joe suddenly becomes the toast of the company, romances Meg Harper (Julie Bowen), the firm's plucky "wellness coordinator," and eventually gets in touch with himself in ways that allow him to ultimately walk away from a concluding bully-baiting session with both his soul and his popularity intact. Constructed with all the precision of a case study in self-empowerment, this tale could easily have lapsed into ickiness of truly Wagnerian proportions. But it's saved by the performances, which are mostly very sharp: Allen is, as usual, an appealing every man, Belushi is quietly hilarious as the B-movie burnout, and Warburton plays fatuous self-absorption better than just about anyone current employed in the entertainment industry. The picture is nearly stolen, however, by co-star Greg Germann (of TV's Ally McBeal) in the role of Joe's company's resident corporate weasel. Germann's squinty-eyed insincerity is truly a marvel to behold, and it's an astringent corrective to the film's rather too frequent feel-good passages.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: PG
- Review: This family comedy tries a little harder than most of Tim Allen's previous efforts, with the exception of the droll GALAXY QUEST, which was an entirely different kettle of aliens/fanboy stew. In fact, it has moments of genuine wit and pathos, one or two ch… (more)