The Promotion (2008)
The Promotion (2008)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 26 min.

Release Date: June 13th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Steven Conrad Actors: Seann William Scott, John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Bobby Cannavale, Lili Taylor, Fred Armisen, Adrian Martinez, Gil Bellows, Jason Bateman




here’s nothing overly spectacular about “The Promotion,” a simple comedy about career-oriented rivalry, yet it has an odd way of succeeding at nearly every little joke it makes. Peculiarly satisfying, the film showcases key, hilarious scenes interspersed with occasionally mediocre (but generally entertaining), bits of gross-out humor and creative cursing. A combination of the best elements of “Waiting…” and “Office Space” applied to the grocery business, “The Promotion” uses dry, bitingly dark humor and abrasive sarcasm to muster up many quality laughs.

Doug Stauber (Seann William Scott) works as an Assistant Manager for Donaldson’s, a generic grocery store that demonstrates the basic horrors of any retail location. While he tolerates the many nuisances and hazards of middle-to-lower-class customer service life, he envisions a more luxurious world and a wealth of opportunities when a new Donaldson’s is set to open up nearby. Considered the “shoe-in” for the manager position, Doug finally decides to buy a house with his wife Jennifer (Jenna Fischer), counting on the huge increase in pay.

But just as Doug rejoices at the position he believes is his, Richard Welhner (John C. Reilly) transfers to the store from Canada. Richard is secretly recovering from a drug and alcohol problem, but he has an outstanding service record that presents Doug with some serious competition for the new leading spot. With the pressure of trying to outperform his rival, Doug ends up sinking further and further into worry-filled delirium – as does Richard, who must break all the rules to compete for the big promotion.

It is the exploitation of extremely pathetic characters and situations (alternately familiar, relatable, and average for many) that makes “The Promotion” so funny. Nearly everyone can sympathize with the depressingly helpless customer service situations with which Doug and Richard must contend, as well as the anxieties of performing for a boss or standing up to troublesome shoppers. The nightmarish episodes at Donaldson’s are relative to almost every job, and they are all handled with cynical accuracy. Not every joke is extraordinary, but never does the film miss a beat, even with the briefer moments of humor. From painfully long moments of silence under the scrutiny of an executive or battling unruly gangs in a perilous parking lot, each reality-based, only slightly exaggerated (if that) shenanigan is comedically agreeable.

With a few random flashback moments, similar to a live action version of “Family Guy,” and the steady deterioration of the lead characters under pounds of stress, “The Promotion” revels in political incorrectness and the mockery of professionalism. Imaginative expletives, tragic misunderstandings, and the hilarious self-help tapes Welhner depends on all tumble together to create a film that dryly parodies every mishap that can happen in the retail business. The jokes occasionally falls back on extreme immaturity or mawkish verbal vulgarities, but they remain predominantly funny at all the right moments. With its obvious insight into its lampooned environment, “The Promotion” is an immensely enjoyable film for anyone who’s ever had a retail job … or any job for that matter.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10