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Movie Review

The Promotion

MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.

Reviewed by: Taran Gingery

Very Offensive
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1 hr. 25 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 6, 2008 / DVD release: September 2, 2008
Copyright, Third Rail Releasing and The Weinstein Company Copyright, Third Rail Releasing and The Weinstein Company Copyright, Third Rail Releasing and The Weinstein Company Copyright, Third Rail Releasing and The Weinstein Company
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Copyright, Third Rail Releasing and The Weinstein Company

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Featuring: Seann William Scott, John C. Reilly, Fred Armisen, Jenna Fischer, Chris Conrad, Lili Taylor, Gil Bellows, Nathan Adloff, Abby Allen, Chris Andre, Michael Armon, Gina Barber, Bobby Cannavale, Brent Allen Caputo, Robert Cilia, Jack Claussen, Katie Claussen, [more]
Director: Steven Conrad
Producer: Jessika Borsiczky Goyer, Steven A. Jones, Christina Varotsis, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Distributor: Third Rail Releasing and The Weinstein Company

“Two guys. One job. No rules.”

DVD coverHave you ever been in a job that barely pays and longed to be promoted to a higher-paying rank? Doug Stauber (Sean William Scott) certainly has. As the assistant manager of a grocery store, Doug still barely makes ends meet and what's more, he has to put up with angry customers and gang members hanging out in his parking lot. So, when Doug hears that he is the “shoe-in” for manager in a new store, he is elated. Enter Richard Welhner (John C. Reilly), from a Canadian sister chain of stores, who is also vying for the position. So begins a battle to the end for the right to money, status, and just plain dignity.

Doug may be the hero of the story, but he has a lot of character flaws. He lies to his wife Jen (Jenna Fischer) saying that he already has the job and is forced to dig deeper into the lie, too ashamed to admit the truth. He never does come clean, and his lies are never seen to have a necessarily negative effect. He makes poor financial decisions, buying a new house before he has the money. And he goes out of his way to humiliate and discredit Richard.

Richard is a man with little self-confidence, who manages to humiliate himself by his own mistakes more often than Doug can. He has a bad temper problem, which gets him into trouble both at work and in his marriage. He mentions going on a Christian mission (the only Christian reference in the film, other than a lot of misuses of the Lord's name), yet he swears more profanely than almost anyone else in the film, even in front of his daughter.

Speaking of which, language content includes dozens of f-words and their derivatives, numerous other colorful expletives and insults, and obscene references to female and male anatomy and masturbation. Richard and Doug come to blows in the parking lot, one dissatisfied customer makes a habit of attempting to beat up Doug wherever he goes, and a gangster gets sprayed with a face-full of mace. We hear Doug's apparently gay neighbors having noisy sex, and we often see Doug and Jen in bed, but nothing more.

Doug eventually comes clean about how he's mistreated Richard, and I believe his decision to do so has something to do with the outcome of the movie. It's even implied that Richard gets his act together and things work out for him as well.

So, “The Promotion” is a surprisingly offbeat little film, with a clever script and an odd bunch of characters. The acting is solid, with both Scott and Reilly believable, and there is an amusing cameo by Jason Bateman. Yet, these minor positives far from outweigh the film's lying, cheating, profane and obscene content, preventing me from promoting this film at all.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

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Movie Critics
…It's really funny, seriously… By taking the time to make that connection with the audience, The Promotion ensures we'll forgive these guys anything—and laugh along with them—in their quest to advance their lots.
—Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
…low impact and low interest…
—Matt Pais, Chicago Tribune
…the movie’s whimsy is undercut by its portrayal of the contemporary workplace as a cheerless corporate boot camp overseen by a grim board of directors that is as stern and vigilant as a military tribunal. The supermarket environment is so dreary you might even nickname the movie ‘The Pursuit of Unhappyness.’…
—Stephen Holden, The New York Times
…a largely unfunny and flat tale set in a dreary milieu that renders the film’s widescreen incarnation all the more curious. …
—Doris Toumarkine, Film Journal International
…It's totally down-to-earth, as real as a trip to the supermarket. …
—Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
…An able comedy of careerism… A pair of decent guys battle for grocery store supremacy…
—Philip Marchand, Toronto Star