The Promotion (2008) **1/2*

Rated: R
Runtime: 1hr 25min
Director: Steve Conrad
Stars: Seann William Scott, John C. Reilly
Genre: Comedy
Language: English

It's All About the Food!

In a Nutshell


Straight as an Arrow

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear

Who's That?

Few Main Characters

Naughty Words


Naked people




If you’re looking for pyrotechnics of any kind, keep looking. But supposing you’re in the market for a quiet film with sweet appealing flawed characters who are trying their darndest to tapdance themselves into a brighter tomorrow? This is your meat and potatoes!

Doug (Seann William Scott), Assistant Manager in a local Chicago supermarket sees his big moment coming up: His boss Scott (Fred Armisen) assures him that he’s a “shoo-in” for Manager in the new store due to open shortly. Great, he and his wife Jen (Jenna Fischer) can actually move out of the world’s worst apartment, where they’re practically in bed with the guy on the other side of the paper- thin walls, and buy a house of their own.

Enter nemesis Richard (John C. Reilly), relocated from Quebec, who decides to vie for the very same job. Trouble is he wins our sympathies (and Doug’s) by virtue of his sad story: a self-avowed former biker drug addict and alcoholic, he’s on the verge of losing his wife and daughter if he doesn’t shape up. An older guy, he doesn’t have as many chances left to get it right.

Here we wait for the “fun” to begin as these two hopeful but limited men with big aspirations try to outdo each other in order to reach their dream. But wait, this is not the little guy against all odds on the exchange floor that we saw in Pursuit of Happyness, directed by the same Steve Conrad. Here there are no dog-eat-dog, back-stabbing traders; all exchanges take place peeking down supermarket aisles, breaking up gangs congregating in the parking lot , sitting down in the breakroom with coworkers scarfing down tater tots.

This sweet film is billed as a comedy, and there are plenty of chuckles, one great hysterical scene with a ship in a bottle, lots of fun poked at self-help tapes and the people who take them literally. But there is sadness and poignancy about these working class heroes of everyday life: decent fellows who only halfheartedly try to screw each other, who stop way short of selling their souls over this job in a supermarket in the city projects. Richard himself says: “We’re all just out here trying to get some food. Sometimes we bump into each other.”

Like the TV hit, The Office, The Promotion has its moments of pure satire - at one point the contest between the two men hangs on a stupid fart joke - and the acting and direction are terrific. Instead of over-the-top comic reactions from the actors, we get real life reactions, understated, believable emotion, that’s easy to identify with.

Gil Bellows, often a romantic lead, here plays an ultra uptight, humorless Board Director; Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live fame plays it straight, Jen Fischer reenacts the same role essentially as the one she plays on The Office and Lili Taylor is appealing as always as a little dippy wife and mother as on Six Feet Under. Seann William Scott plays a self-contained 30-something, poker faced, resigned to his career in a supermarket yet with a past hinting at some secret backstory - don’t miss that glint in his eye when he loses it with the homeboys!

The ending is a tad surprising for its lack of drama. Everything is resolved and everyone survives. There’s a sense of where’s the payoff? But isn’t this the nature of life? Sometimes arbitrary decisions are responsible for shaping our lives. And how nice to see a story about real people for once!

Shelly Hanner, a retired government executive, is honored to be reviewing for this site, and wants everyone to know his teeth are his own. Janet Garber, a human resources executive and published author, has been living with Shelly's corny jokes for some time now, and her only escape is going to the movies!


Wayne D. said on June 19, 2008


Good review as always. Well written and I’ll be looking forward to seeing this one as I am curious to see what happens at the conclusion.

Marsha said on June 20, 2008


Sounds like a good movie for DVD.


Angela Levine said on November 9, 2010


Very good review. i saw the movie on DVD, found it poignant, laughed a lot; John C. Reilly especially was perfect. Usually I’d be put off by the crude language, as it often seems gratuitous, but here it was actually natural, in keeping w/ the characters and situations. As is often the case a worthwhile film is overlooked or undervalued. I also enjoyed “The Weatherman”, much less so “The Pursuit of Happyness” both written by Steve Conrad.

Gman said on October 5, 2011


I love the scene when Doug and Richard are on the L and Richard is pretending to crush Doug with his thumb but Dough thinks that he’s giving him a “thumbs up”. I think that what goes around comes around and Doug did the right thing by sticking up for Richard. I am always looking for the movie I missed in the theater as I am an avid movie watcher but what I like about Blockbuster is that I can always find movies not only rare but 28 days before other movie services. Not only that but the Blockbuster Movie Pass from DISH Network that is free for new customers gives me one bill from DISH, over 100,000 movies plus games, streaming and I also get 20 movie channels on my DISH employee account as a current customer for only $10 a month. Next on my queue is Thor and I don’t have to pay extra for mail to my home, or Blue-ray.

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