Company Man
review by Elias Savada, 9 March 2001

Disgraced federal agent Robert Hanssen is confined to jail, disenfranchised from his friends and family. Yet he's the lucky one this week, sitting on a cold prison cot right now, immune from the torture innocent moviegoers are finding with the lamentably incompetent spy send up Company Man, a lame period comedy stalled in neutral and filled with drop dreadful jokes rejected decades ago from Get Smart! and disbarred vaudeville routines. Hanssen's former employer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is off the hook, too, as the CIA bears the brunt of the nooseless gallows humor from the vapid minds of writer-directors Peter Askin and Douglas McGrath, the latter also starring as a Connecticut grammar school teacher and driver education instructor turned ineptly successful secret agent. In search of a dangling participle or misplaced adverb, milquetoast Allen Quimp (McGrath) is the black sheep of his blue blood family of Nobel Prize winners, and the mild-mannered scapegoat of his overbearing, unquenchably greedy wife Daisy (Sigourney "what the heck am I doing in this film" Weaver). To earn their respect ("Why bother?" I kept saying to myself) he fabricates a convoluted tale that eventually provides a nonsensical revisionist spin on the Bay of Pigs and, in a kicker, the Vietnam war. His big lie lands him a big job with the Central Intelligence Agency, just one of the many federal and foreign bumble-headed groups pock-marked by the perpetrators of the mirthless ode to the 1960s. Dick attempted and blissfully succeeded in putting a new twist on the Watergate era; Company Man is a stillborn tragedy.

Perhaps prodded by the success of Austin Powers and what someone thought was a funny script instead comes across as blandly directed, broad-based, overacted farce, an embarrassment for anyone associated with it. Or watching it.

Fact: Filmed in early 1999 with an impressive case, this $16 million budgeted Americanized rip-off of all things Clouseau became the subject of a lawsuit between the filmmakers and one of the production entities over final cut. Everyone lost ,based on what's up on screen. There's no way to rescue a dead turkey except to eat it for Thanksgiving dinner.

Fact: The film premiered in France and Italy in early May last year, with other Europeans having to suffer through it and the mad cow disease scare in the ensuing months. I suspect angry cinéastes would have preferred the luck of downing Le Big Mac than the eighty-one-minute cow they just sat through. Perhaps scientists will some day discover if Company Man is the actual cause of the bovine plague.

Serious Speculation: This film will garner no positive reviews except for paranoid fans of un-aired, failed television comedy espionage pilots, the parents of Peter Askin and Douglas McGrath, and the brain dead.

The film, "based on some true events," starts out in Washington, 1962, with Quimp the subject of a secret Congressional committee of two (I want to say both are Jeffrey Jones based on his exaggerated girth these days) investigating into the spy's several years with the CIA. This dissolves into a handful of flashbacks and guest stars. Ryan Phillippe is the defecting Russian dancer Rudolph Petrov, forced to chase the high school teacher and one his flustered pupils (Heather Matarazzo) around in circles. The Company takes notice because Quimp the Wimp is masquerading as one of their own, then realize that he has inadvertently caught a big Soviet fish. Forced to hire the dope, the spymasters opt to package him off to a small backwater island to keep him out of trouble:  Cuba.

The damp tropical setting sure brings some bad acting out of the soggy woodwork. Dennis Leary is Officer Fry, a turncoat agent done in by Quimp's compulsive attention to grammatical detail and the outright theft of Abbott and Costello material. Woody Allen, unbilled, is the beret-bedecked Lowther, the long-reigning local CIA station chief and resident nebbish. John Turturro is Quimp's renegade predecessor, a pumped up soldier-of-fortune jungle revolutionary who has watched too many Burt Lancaster movies. Alan Cumming is an effete, Carmen-Mirandized Generale Batista battling wits with a madcapped Castro (Anthony LaPaglia). Batista is preciously upset at being deposed and worried about losing his policies—especially his home owner's. Badda-bing. That's the typical sophomoric humor which permeates this stinker;  it self-confesses to being "the most humiliating debacle in U.S. history", though not as reluctantly as those involved in the incident at the Bay of Pigs.  Marilyn Monroe and JFK stand-ins make brief encounters with the participants in this slapshtick fiasco, an infinitely worse disaster than the real Bay of Pigs and the other foiled attempts to assassinate Castro (LSD, hair loss, poisoned cigars, bad humor). In fact there are more death plots here than there are at Arlington Cemetery.

Company Man buries you.

Written and
Directed by:

Peter Askin
Douglas McGrath

Douglas McGrath
Sigourney Weaver
John Turturro
Alan Cumming
Anthony LaPaglia
Ryan Phillippe
Heather Matarazzo
Dennis Leary
Woody Allen

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned
Some material ma
be inappropriate for
children under 13





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