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Movie Review

Tim Allen and Joe Somebody director John Pasquin go back a long way. Pasquin served as director for episodes of Home Improvement; Tim Allen starred. Pasquin directed The Santa Clause; Allen starred. The two work together well, but they always seem to end up creating projects that feel much more at home on TV screens than movie screens. They’re not bad, they’re just small. It doesn’t help that Allen’s three co-stars are all currently identified with high-profile TV shows. Allen plays Joe. Joe’s love interest, Meg, is played by Ed star Julie Bowen. His co-nemesis, Jeremy, is played by Ally McBeal’s Greg Germann. And washed-up actor turned martial arts instructor, Chuck, is fleshed out by Jim Belushi, who is currently heading up the hit comedy According to Jim.

Joe is the "A/V guy" for Starke Pharmaceuticals. He’s spent 10 years occupying a cubicle, and no one’s noticed. Then one day, he gets beat up by Mark McKinney, a junior colleague who brazenly steals his hard-earned parking space. Humiliated (in front of his 12-year-old daughter, Natalie), Joe Nobody picks himself up by his bootstraps and decides to become Joe Somebody. Or laugh trying. He learns karate (in less than three weeks he bests his teacher). He gets a new hairstyle. New clothes. A new Cadillac. And he starts climbing the corporate ladder with vigor. All for the grand goal of knocking some guy’s block off. Yep. That’s his new mission in life. A rematch with the bully from the parking lot. The "thrilla from vanilla," as a new friend puts it. Thankfully, the heretofore fourth-grade thinking Joe does grow up a bit in the process.

positive elements: To fight, or not to fight. That is the question. Great fodder for discussion here regarding settling differences with physical violence. Also, Joe faces his deeper demons of self-loathing and disillusionment. Meg wants to be a school guidance counselor, and she invests time in a Big Sister program. Joe is recently divorced after his wife left him for a two-bit actor. Still, Joe refuses to encourage his daughter’s tendency to take his side and denigrate her mother. "Your mom is an exotic flower," he explains to Natalie when she complains about the kooky stuff she has to do when she’s staying with her mom and boyfriend. "What does that make you, dirt?" Natalie fires back. Joe immediately calls her on it. "Nat, she’s your mom," he pleads. Nat may be mixed up about her parents, but she’s got the fighting issue down pat. She’s opposed to her dad’s plan from the beginning. "Fighting that guy is not the answer," she tells him. On a lighter note, Joe Somebody scores big points for taking the time to make vicious fun of smarmy television ads for over-hyped drugs put out by big pharmaceutical companies.

sexual content: Slang and innuendo. Mild jokes about sexual body parts (peters, balls of steel, etc.). And a brief scene in which Meg wears only briefs (panties and a camisole). Joe’s ex-wife is seen wearing a teddy.

violent content: Joe’s infamous fight in the parking lot consists of three hits. The guy hitting Joe (twice), and Joe hitting the ground. Learning martial arts, Joe and his instructor, Chuck, spar in several scenes. Chuck hits Joe in the throat and kicks him in the crotch to goad him into sticking up for himself. Joe punches out a store mannequin, and he fantasizes about a shopping cart race with "the bully" (he crashes his cart into an end-cap display). Joe hits Jeremy in the throat (just like Chuck taught him).

crude or profane language: Two s-words top about 30 milder profanities (including several uses of a-- by Natalie). There are also a half-dozen misuses of various incarnations of the Lord’s name.

drug and alcohol content: Joe drinks to mask his humiliation. Chuck is also shown drowning his inadequacies in beer. Later, Joe and Meg drink beer at a bar on their "first date." Even though he’s never seen drinking, Jeremy has an obvious alcohol problem—he even has Scotch hidden in his desk drawer. Cigars and cigarettes put in infrequent appearances.

conclusion:"Audiences are going to be surprised after seeing Tim Allen in this movie," states producer Matthew Gross. "He’s not only a romantic lead, he expresses incredible empathy for this character. Tim is a gifted comedian whose persona embodies the average guy who everybody wants to root for. There’s something about him in all of us." That’s PR, naturally, but he’s half right. Endearing scenes between Joe and his daughter reeled me in early on. And I thought those moments were going to lead to something. But I was disappointed when the thread of their relationship was lost in a pursuit of laughs—some of them cheap, and none of them grand. Too much time is spent watching Tim Allen exercise his well-known slapstick muscles. Sure, he’s funny, but don’t tease audiences with glimpses of subtlety and depth only to strand them on the set of Tool Time.

Clean up the language and wash away some of the alcohol and Joe Somebody could be something of a hit in the after-school special crowd. As it is, the positive themes are far too obvious (and can be encountered in far too many other venues) to pay movie-theater prices for.

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