This amusing, occasionally insightful workplace comedy revolves around two rivals for the same job as manager of a new branch of a Donaldson supermarket in Chicago.
Having been assured of the promotion by his boss (Fred Armisen), the meek veteran assistant manager, Doug Stauber (Seann William Scott), does whatever he’s told. After all, his perky medical-assistant wife Jen (Jenna Fischer from “The Office”) yearns for a house and they’d like to start a family. But complications occur with the arrival of Richard (John C. Reilly), an amiable transfer from Montreal, who’s bucking for the same, better-paying job that Doug covets. He’s married to Laurie (Lili Taylor), a Scotswoman, and they already have a baby daughter.
While Doug’s told he’s a “shoo-in,” he’s known to exaggerate his accomplishments and hide negative evaluation cards he’s received from customers. On the other hand, Richard is a former alcoholic who listens to self-help CDs, even as he smokes marijuana in the workplace. Complicating their passive-aggressive competition, as the mega-grocery chain continually tries to maintain good community relations, the tempers of both men are sorely tried by several of the local delinquents who continually cause trouble in the parking lot.
In casting this humanistic, low-key, character-driven satire, writer and first-time director Steve Conrad (“The Weather Man,” “The Pursuit of Happyness”) hit the jackpot, daring to choose clownish Seann William Scott (Stifler in “American Pie”) as the rigid Everyman, and John C. Reilly (“Chicago,” “Walk Hard”) always delivers a credible performance. These actors smooth over Conrad’s bland, repetitive style and uneven pacing. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Promotion” is a bittersweet, flimsy 5. After the gamesmanship, it’s obvious that – with their anger management issues – neither employee is really qualified for the coveted position.