There’s nothing necessarily wrong with The Promotion. It’s perfectly likable and non-offensive as a comedy about two guys slugging it out for the manager position at an about-to-open grocery store. But there are problems with the script that even the best efforts of the actors can’t overcome.
Seann William Scott plays the current assistant manager at a supermarket who, upon finding that they’re opening a new location, decides the manager slot at the new store should be his. That job will let him and his wife, played by Jenna Fischer, move out of their small apartment and into a house of their own. But into the mix comes John C. Reilly, whose character is recently moved from Canada and who decides to put his hat in the ring as well.
This would be a situation that seems ripe with comedic opportunity but it never really comes together. Reilly’s character is a recovering drug addict and is always portrayed as a sad-sack loser who seemingly knows nothing of American culture or of how to act in a public setting, which is a tad unbelievable. And Lily Taylor, who plays his wife, is completely wasted as an unnecessarily Irish lass who only appears on-screen for a handful of scenes and who never really gets a chance to do anything.
Scott’s character just comes off not as someone striving to be a winner but just a mid-level dick and his attempts to undermine his rival seem half-hearted. He never really schemes or anything, he just takes advantage of the situations he’s presented with and tries to make Reilly’s character look like a stooge to the executives who float in and out of the store. Ultimately his victory is not so much because of bad light his opponent was shone in but because his actions drove Reilly’s character back to a destructive lifestyle – drugs. It’s all good, though, since the ending shows that it all worked out for the best.
Fischer probably gives the best, most believable performance in the movie (other than Jason Bateman’s brief appearance as a team motivational coach). But that performance of hers is on a completely different beat – a funny one – than the rest of the cast is humming along to.
All in all The Promotion is moderately amusing but doesn’t live up to the buzz it seemed to have after it appeared on the festival circuit a while ago.