I recently saw this promoted on another DVD and was puzzled that I’d never heard of it: you’d think a film with Tim Allen would have been promoted. I figured it was a dog but rented it anyway.
To my surprise, this was an excellent film. Don’t judge it by the trailer (which is misleading) or Tim’s reputation. This is NOT a slapstick comedy goof-off, but a mildly comedic serious story about an average Joe trying to figure out who he is.
Tim plays Joe, a longtime cubicle worker for a huge corporation who’s a decent but invisible guy. He’s struggling through a divorce, but loves his daughter. On “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” the last parking spot gets taken by a jerk who cuts him off. Worse, this parking lot is reserved for employees who’ve worked at the company for at least ten years and Joe knows the guy’s only been there for seven. He confronts the guy and the guy (who’s big), slaps him down. Twice. In front of his daughter. Humiliated, Joe begins to wonder what went wrong with his life.
Inspired by a co-worker (the stunning Julie Bowen), he decides that what he wants is to beat the jerk up. He publicly announces he’s going to fight the guy in three weeks, and then sets out on a rigorous training regime. Suddenly everyone at the office knows Joe, likes Joe, and is rooting for him to beat the jerk.
Gradually the popularity and overconfidence goes to Joe’s head as he’s alienated from his potential girlfriend (Bowen) and his daughter, who don’t like the new cocky Joe. In the end, Joe must decide if beating up a co-worker will make him a man, or if he’s already a man.
This is a film about character: the plot’s predictable but that’s not why you watch this kind of movie. Tim Allen does an excellent job, but this is not the laugh-out-loud comedy you’d expect from him. I think that’s why it failed. People didn’t get what they expected. Watch this as a drama and you’ll find the humor amusing and the love story attractive. It’s well-written with some remarkably good dialogue, especially in the romance, which in comedic films often comes across as silly.
For instance, one of my favorite scenes occurs after Tim witnesses Julie Bowen playing basketball with some girls and doing a silly and embarrassing victory dance. Later, while walking and talking, she asks how long he was standing there watching. When he admits he saw her dance, she embarrassed and says, “Oh no, no. Please, say something right now to make me feel less like throwing myself down these steps.” Tim pauses, then says, “I’ll be flat out amazed if I can think of anything else for a least a week.” Very simple, but honest and effective. She’s flattered and that’s the beginning of their falling in love. Cool scene.