joe somebody(2001)
director: john pasquin
tim allen, kelly lynch,
julie bowen, jim belushi

. It’s not particularly original to compare office culture to high school, but Tim Allen’s new comedy manages to draw the parallel without serious affront to the audience’s intelligence, at least for the first hour.

Allen plays Joe Scheffer, a white-collar sad sack toiling in the lower regions of the “campus” of a massive pharmaceutical corporation. He’s newly divorced and barely holding himself together when he has his parking space in the “ten-year associate” parking lot stolen by an office bully with less seniority who slaps him to the asphalt. It’s “Take Your Daughter to Work Day”, and his own daughter -- the standard precocious “wise child” played with saving presence by Hayden Panettiere -- witnesses his humiliation.

Joe spirals into a nervous breakdown, and draws the attentions of the corporate “wellness coordinator” (Julie Bowen as the inevitable love interest), which segues into one of the film’s high points -- a satire of touchy-feely management cults, replete with moronic motivational slogans and less-than-holistic hidden agendas. Joe enlists a trainer (Jim Belushi doing a hilarious Steven Segal impression) and challenges the bully to a duel. He becomes a “big man on campus”, complete with invitations to the executive gym and wincingly accurate karaoke nights. 

Even his ex-wife (Kelly Lynch in what amounts to a cameo) has her interest renewed, but his daughter isn’t impressed, and begs him to call off the fight. I needn’t have to explain what comes next -- a headlong plunge into the pudding-filled trough of “feel-good” comedy; a gleeful dulling of whatever edge the script might have honed up till the last half hour. As a comedian, Allen is taking the venerable option of “Cosby-fying” himself, wrapping himself in a psychic cardigan in the hopes of turning characters like Joe Somebody into an ameliorated, middling Joe Anybody.