company man(2001)
dir: peter askin, douglas mcgrath
douglas mcgrath, sigourney weaver, john turturro, woody allen

. There is, sadly, only one good laugh in Company Man, a comedy about the Cold War, and it occurs during the now-obligatory “out-takes” credit roll. It involves George Bush, William F. Buckley and a coffee enema, and it might make you suspect that a much darker, meaner, funnier film had been cruelly eviscerated by know-nothing studio execs if the memory of the previous, excruciating hour-and-a-half weren’t still so fresh in the mind.

Co-writer and -director Douglas McGrath stars as Allen Quimp, a pedantic grammar teacher whose shrewish wife (Sigourney Weaver) nags him into concocting an elaborate lie about his double life as a CIA agent. The lie comes true when he accidentally helps a Russian ballet dancer defect, and in short order he’s a real CIA agent assigned to the Cuban office on the eve of Castro’s revolution. 

The ensuing film is mostly a dreary string of lame sketch gags based on the ridiculous plots to overthrow Castro -- poisoned scuba suits and cigars, the Bay of Pigs -- actually hatched by the U.S. at the turn of the Sixties. Quimp and his cohorts -- played by Woody Allen, John Turturro and Denis Leary, among other wasted talent -- recall the bumbling dolts of ancient sitcoms like McHale’s Navy and Sgt. Bilko, and the cast pitches their performances at the same level of manic caricature. 

Company Man might have made for truly cruel satire had the same ridiculous plots been shown hatching in the atmosphere of solemn, officious paranoia that actually ruled the CIA at the time, but McGrath and co-director Peter Askin opt instead for a film that makes the average episode of Gilligan’s Island seem like a masterpiece of pacing and subtlety.