Making good use of unlikely Chicago locations, The Promotion follows a pair of assistant supermarket managers, Doug (Scott) and Richard (Reilly), who vie for the same job. Doug has toiled away with comment cards and disgruntled customers for years; the more glad-handing and equally qualified Richard has just come down from Canada. (Somewhere, perhaps, the movie thinks it’s saying something about immigration.)
Conventions dictate that this would be a comedy of one-upmanship, in which Doug and Richard attempt to make each other look like fools, but that’s not exactly the case. By far the most interesting aspect of the movie is the way that Doug, eager to buy a new house, instinctively feels the need to compete so fiercely with the hapless Richard—a recovering addict working to save a shaky marriage (Taylor, as his wife, sports a curious Scottish accent). This is the American Dream at its most mindlessly ruthless
It’s a difficult mix of sympathies to pull off, and writer-director Steve Conrad (who wrote the similarly tone-deaf The Weather Man) can’t quite hold it together. What we get is either a drama that never takes itself seriously—or a comedy that’s rarely funny.