Joe Somebody Movie Review

"Joe Somebody" is a movie about an anonymous cubicle drone (Tim Allen) at a pharmaceutical company who beefs up over a period of weeks after a schoolyard scuffle with a bullying co-worker. The guy socked Joe in the nose in front of his 12-year-old daughter over a parking place in front of the office, so now he's ashamed to look at himself in the mirror.

But throughout the picture, all I could think was, how can screenwriter John Scott Shepherd look at himself in the mirror after turning out such uninspired, immature, mechanical, hole-riddled, cliché-driven, insultingly predictable drivel devoid of a single moment that isn't as stale as year-old bread?

A fight over a parking spot is an insipid gimmick on which to hang a movie, but "Joe Somebody" is only getting warmed up. Once word gets around the office that Joe wants a rematch when cocky Mark McKinney (Patrick Warburton) gets back from a disciplinary suspension (is this a corporation or a junior high school?), he instantaneously becomes Big Man On Campus (or office park as the case may be). Executives ask him to play squash in the company's private gym, people high-five him in hallways, the office slut throws herself at him, and his artsy-fartsy ex-wife (Kelly Lynch) starts to wonder what she's missing.

As Joe starts to enjoy being popular, he loses sight of the Important Things In Life, alienating both the office cutie (Julie Bowen from TV's "Ed"), who was on his side to begin with, and his wise-beyond-her-years kid (Hayden Panettiere, "Remember the Titans"), who loves him just the way he was. This little girl has to act as the adult to both her insecure father and her flighty mother -- which is always a sure sign of a stupid movie. It means the adult characters are worthlessly childish and makes you feel sorry for the kid who doesn't get to be a kid.

Director Joe Pasquin, who helmed Tim Allen's smash "The Santa Clause" and his trash "Jungle2Jungle," then sleepwalks the story through elementary training montages (featuring a perfectly cast Jim Belushi as a washed-up Steven Seagal type running a martial arts studio). He listlessly slogs through a parallel budding romance between Allen and Bowen (who volunteers in a ghetto Big Sisters program -- isn't she wonderful?). Then for an encore he beats to death the moral of the story ("A parking space isn't worth fighting for. You're worth fighting for!").

As if the plot itself isn't bad enough, Pasquin's filmmaking is nothing short of inept. In the first three minutes there's a glaring continuity error, and the finale wraps up leaving a fat chunk of the story unresolved. The director can't even close the loop on its own clichés. In an early scene, Joe's daughter says, "Dad, I've read your play. It was amazing. How come you wrote only one?" It's painfully obvious this is meant to set up a triumphant ending in which Joe walks off the job to pursue his dream -- but it's never mentioned again, and neither is what happens to Joe at work after the big showdown.

One of the worst movies of the year, "Joe Somebody" has exactly two things going for it: 1) The conscientiously adequate performances of Jim Belushi, Julie Bowen, Hayden Panettiere and Patrick Warburton ("The Tick," "Seinfeld"), who all manage to wade through this waist-deep rubbish without getting any on them. 2) A running gag involving the pharmaceutical company's TV commercials, which all end with "Possible side effects may include..." followed by a run-on sentence of every ailment known to man including "in some rare cases, death."

I haven't walked out on a movie in a long time, but when this stinker ended, I wished I hadn't talked myself out of it this time.


Joe Somebody Rating

" Hmmm "

Rating: PG, Opened: Friday, December 21, 2001


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