In Good Company, the first film screened in USC's Leonard Maltin class, is a strong, enjoyable film that I would recommend to anyone considering seeing it. Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid both turn in strong performances, and the romance between Grace and Scarlett Johannsen is handled sensibly and realistically.
Watching the trailer and TV spots for the movie, it seems pleasant enough, but you don't get a sense of a major hook to draw you in. Indeed, there isn't one. The story is low-key and the conflicts are subtle and simmering. For those unfamiliar, Topher Grace is a young corporate marketing hotshot brought in to replace the demoted Dennis Quaid as head of magazine ad sales after a big merger. Dennis Quaid has to deal with aging and pressures of family while Topher Grace has to deal with having nothing but a career in his empty life. And eventually, Topher Grace starts sleeping with Johannsen, who's Dennis Quaid's college-aged daughter.
It's all very well done, and while it's peppered with funny character moments, it's not nearly as funny as About a Boy (co-directed by In Good Company's director, Paul Weitz, with his brother Chris), nor does it seem intended to be. In fact, while it has a light, pleasant tone, it's hard to say whether it's really a comedy. Comedy-drama might come closer. It's smartly written, and the lack of laughs isn't really due to any failings--it's not like any jokes go thudding onto the floor. Well, perhaps some of the stuff having to do with Grace's colleague, an over-the-top corporate lackey with cultlike enthusiasm for Rupert Murdoch stand-in Teddy K., played by Malcolm McDowell, if only because it feels too much like "comedy" when the rest of the movie feels real. By and large, the film is more interested in following its characters truthfully than wringing laughs from situations where they don't naturally occur.
In a live Q&A after the screening, writer/director Paul Weitz revealed that the original title for the film was "Synergy," until he realized that was a better title for either a sci-fi film or a more cold, bloodless corporate satire than he intended to make.
In the future, I may not be able to respond to the screenings so promptly. We will often be watching advance screenings of stuff with all sorts of security and confidentiality concerns. They'll actually take away cameras and camera-phones for fear of piracy, so I imagine they wouldn't want any blogging about it either. A major site like this could start an avalanche of negative buzz.