Two Comedies from Alliance
Legacy (October 10/08)
There's little doubt that Legacy quickly reveals itself to be as vacuous and mindless as its central characters, as the film has been infused with an egregiously lighthearted and eye-rollingly silly sensibility that proves effective in transforming it into an unusually tedious piece of work. Director Irving Rothberg - working from Jason Dudek and Samantha Silver's screenplay - offers up an endeavor that possesses all the style and substance of a third-rate movie-of-the-week, with the almost impossibly thin storyline exacerbated by an emphasis on excessively broad supporting characters (ie a pair of hopelessly bumbling security guards). The film - which follows three bubble-headed Omega Kappa sisters (Haylie Duff's Lana, Madeline Zima's Zoey, and Monica Lo's Mai) as they conspire to do away with an undesirable "legacy" pledge (Kate Albrecht's Katie) - boasts an opening half that transpires almost entirely within the confines of an absolutely interminable sorority party, where virtually every character is ultimately painted as a suspect in Katie's mysterious demise. This is followed by a series of interrogation sequences that are astounding in their incompetence, as Rothberg's decision to stress exceedingly juvenile comedic elements - ie Tom Green's painfully over-the-top turn as a clinically insane detective - will surely test the patience of even the film's target demographic of indiscriminating 12-year-olds.
The Promotion (October 11/08)
The Promotion is an odd yet compelling comedy revolving around a competition that ensues between a pair of grocery-store assistant managers (Seann William Scott's Doug and John C. Reilly's Richard) after a position at a new location opens up, with the bulk of the proceedings devoted to their individual efforts at proving themselves right for the job and (eventually) sabotaging one another's chances. The film, written and directed by noted screenwriter Steve Conrad, boasts an affected, downright quirky sensibility that certainly results in a number of genuinely hilarious sequences, with a brief stretch set within the confines of a corporate retreat undoubtedly standing out as an obvious highlight. That being said, Conrad's refusal to sacrifice the reality of the characters effectively sets The Promotion apart from such overtly deadpan endeavors as Napoleon Dynamite and Eagle vs Shark - as there's never a point at which the viewer questions Doug and Richard's authenticity (the latter's motivational cassette tape does push it, however). The exceedingly low-key manner in which the story unfolds does ensure that the film often works better in its individual moments (ie Richard's ill-fated attempts at assembling a ship in a bottle), however, and it's worth noting that Conrad is ultimately unable to sustain one's interest for the duration of the 86-minute running time. It's nevertheless impossible to deny the effectiveness of both Scott and Reilly's work here, with the former offering up a performance that's actually quite impressive in its depth and subtlety. The end result is an above-average directorial debut that certainly feels like a natural extension of Conrad's previous efforts, although - as was the case with The Weather Man and The Pursuit of Happyness - the film is ultimately unable to entirely overcome an inherently uneven atmosphere.