A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Nine to Five" is a good-hearted, simple-minded comedy that will win a place in film history, I suspect, primarily because it contains the movie debut of Dolly Parton. She is, on the basis of this one film, a natural-born movie star, a performer who holds our attention so easily that it's hard to believe it's her first film.
There have been other debuts this unmistakable; you could name Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, John Travolta. And what you'd be talking about in each case would not necessarily be a great dramatic performance in an important movie. You'd be talking about a quality of presence, a personal life force that seems to take over the screen.
"Nine to Five" is only a fairly successful comedy. It has some very funny moments, and then it has some major ingredients that don't work, including some of its fantasy sequences. But then it also has Dolly Parton. And she contains so much energy, so much life and unstudied natural exuberance that watching her do anything in this movie is a pleasure. Because there have been so many Dolly Parton jokes (and doubtless will be so many more), I had better say that I'm not referring to her sex appeal or chest measurements. Indeed, she hardly seems to exist as a sexual being in this movie. She exists on another plane, as Monroe did: She is a center of life on the screen.
But excuse me for a moment while I regain my composure. "Nine to Five" itself is pleasant entertainment, and I liked it, despite its uneven qualities and a plot that's almost too preposterous for the material. The movie exists in the tradition of 1940s screwball comedies. It's about improbable events happening to people who are comic caricatures of their types, and, like those '40s movies, It also has a dash of social commentary.