Joe Scheffer (Tim Allen) is a quiet, hardworking, loyal employee of ten years who no one ever notices… until the day he’s attacked by a colleague in front of his daughter.

I would give it 4/5.  As much as I don’t like films with violence and explosions every five seconds, I also like films with a little more story to them.  Otherwise, it is a perfectly nice family film with a very young (tomboyish!) Hayden Panettierre.

Everyone knows (or is) a Joe.  He’s the person who works hard, works well, and doesn’t cause trouble, which unfortunately means he usually turns into more of a “that guy in that cubicle” than someone everyone’s friends with.

Joe brings his daughter with him for Bring Your Daughter to Work Day; she is why he chooses to confront the colleague parking where he shouldn’t; the confrontation is the reason he is very embarrassed in front of her.

Life Changing

This fight is what drives the rest of the film, mostly towards Joe’s proposed rematch.

The result of the fight is that everyone who saw it or heard about it now very much knows who Joe is and wants to be his friend – exactly what he always dreamed of.

Which works out pretty well for him (or does it?), singing karaoke and playing squash alongside his fight training with ex action film star Chuck (James Belushi.)

Love and War

Of course there’s a romantic interest! Played by Julie Bowen.  She works in the same company and is also the one who finds out about how Joe’s boss Jeremy (Greg Germann) is manipulating him.

She’s the one who talks to him and likes him at the beginning, before his newfound fame.  Who tries to help him (okay, it’s her job, but it’s more than that too.) Who later tells him that his new popularity hasn’t necessarily made him a better person – a valid point, but always makes one realize that the entire film could have been avoided if she’d just talked to him earlier.  Then again, that could have just been (and probably is) a different film.

Family

Joe has an ex wife (Kelly Lynch), who’s now with a younger man, cow actor (Ken Marino), and a twelve year old daughter Natalie (Panettiere)

Although the ex does, predictably, start becoming interested in him again once he’s popular and more self-assured – given who she’s with now, of course she does – it isn’t pursued.  They were already still familiar, with them having shared custody of Natalie and having to see each other every week.

Natalie cares about her father; she never wanted him to pick a fight to impress her, she’s worried and hurt when he’s too depressed to want to see her, and is proud when he finally sets a good example.  I also had to check that this was Panettiere, she’s certainly no teenage cheerleader yet.  In her own story arc, she also comes to terms with her parents’ separation and gets her own fifteen minutes of fame.

Conclusion

A nice film, with lessons to learn without being preachy about it.  You feel sorry for Joe and for Natalie, and happy for them by the end.

Unfortunately, while the way the rematch is handled is good, it would have been even better if it hadn’t taken most of the film to get to it; in terms of content, it can easily be boiled down to:

“Gets into fight, proposes rematch -> becomes popular -> has rematch.  With some romance and scheming thrown in.”

Not slow or unexciting enough to actually become boring, there’s also a little too little action that makes it drag slightly.  A good film for a lazy afternoon.

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