A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"The Promotion" is a human comedy about two supermarket employees who are always ill at ease. It's their state of being. I felt a little ill at ease watching it because I was never quite sure whether I was supposed to be laughing at them or feeling sorry for them. It's one of those off-balance movies that seems searching for the right tone.
The setting: a Chicago supermarket. The central characters: Doug (Seann William Scott), 33, a loyal employee, and Richard (John C. Reilly), mid-30s, a Canadian who has emigrated to America with his Scottish wife, Laurie (Lili Taylor), and their daughter. Doug is recently married to Jen (Jenna Fischer). When their supermarket chain decides to open a new store, the two men are in line for a promotion to store manager.
They both desperately desire and need this job. Doug has convinced his wife he's a "shoo-in," and they invest all of their savings in a non-refundable deposit on a house. Richard is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, now in AA, trying to prove he is a trustworthy husband and father. The two men fight for the job not in a slapstick way but in an understated, underhanded way that Doug feels bad about, Richard not so much. ("We're all just out here to get some food," Richard philosophizes. "Sometimes we bump into each other.")
The movie is unusually quiet and introspective for a comedy. Doug provides a narration, and Richard gets one of his own in the form of a self-help tape he obsessively listens to. Doug decides Richard is a "nice guy," and observes, "All Canadians are nice." That's before Richard fakes an injury to lodge a dreaded "in-store complaint" that could cost Doug his job.