Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Crude Sexual Content and Language
Directed by: J.B. Rogers
Written by: Dan Callahan
Starring: Michael Vartan, Sean Astin, David Cross, Celia Weston, Sara Foster, Constance Zimmer & Ron White
Ever watch a movie based purely on the involvement of one cast member? We’ve all done it at least once. My weakness for DEMOTED came in the form of comedian David Cross. He’s absolutely one of the best characters in the series ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (second only to Will Arnett) and his stand-up material is absolute gold. So why do his movie appearances not fare as well? His voice work in the KUNG FU PANDA series and MEGAMIND are his best film performances to date, because he seems to either fall flat in every live-action project he signs on to or just had bad luck in picking which films to star in. DEMOTED has a good marketing technique, by which I mean that it fooled me into thinking there was some possible potential behind this movie that never really existed in the first place.
The story of DEMOTED revolves around Rodney and Mike. They’re two immature salesmen (played by Vartan and Astin) who enjoy making life a living hell for their co-worker Ken (David Cross, himself). After their playful boss bites the big one (possibly due to drunken antics brought on by the pair of jackasses), Ken winds up being promoted to the head position. That’s right, the guy who they’ve picked on for years is now in charge and plans on getting revenge in a big way. Instead of simply firing the duo (that would send them off with a hefty severance package), he demotes them to the most unmanly position of all: secretaries! The pair begin to fit in with their female equals and try to fight for justice in this sexist and uncaring company, while inflicting an intricate plan on revenge back on Ken.
The poster for DEMOTED claims that it’s from the guys behind the AMERICAN PIE series. I did a little digging as far as the immediate crew went and found only one interesting tie to the successful comedy franchise. It certainly doesn’t come from screenwriter Dan Callahan. His only other script-turned-film can be found in the 2008’s damn-near-forgotten COLLEGE. The PIE connection is actually tied to director J.B. Rogers, who served as the director on AMERICAN PIE 2 and only produced the first film. With this knowledge on how to direct of a workable comedy, it’s surprising that the production values are absolutely terrible here. The argument can be made that it was a low-budget production and they probably didn’t have enough to make things look professional, but I call bullshit. I’ve seen plenty of independent films that were made for far less than DEMOTED and look way better (e.g. THE SIGNAL from 2008). This camera quality and visuals look like someone shot this thing in their backyard on handy-cams. There’s no excuse for the cheap nature of the film, which doesn’t only appear in production values.
There’s absolutely nothing in DEMOTED that’s original or funny. That’s right this is a comedy without a single laugh to be found. The one-note joke of the men being secretaries is bounced around over and over (especially with a character played by Ron White). There’s an outline for a movie here, but not an actual plot itself. I say this because it takes until about the final 25 minutes of the movie for the guys to enact any revenge at all. There’s a side-story about Rodney trying to impress his demanding father-in-law and lying to his girlfriend about a fake promotion. The problem is that this thread plays out exactly as one might expect it would. The script is completely content to stick to a by-the-numbers formula and doesn’t deviate into any territory that would be entertaining, let alone interesting, to begin with. But it doesn’t even stay true to the basic formula that was being set up either, because there’s a solid gap of about 40 minutes where the movie is just wandering off willy nilly and seems to be making itself up as it goes along.
The jokes fall into three distinct categories: dusty, offensively sexist, and bathroom humor. There are two extended scenes in restrooms, along with a cringe-worthy moment near the end that bank on gross-out shock value. Gross humor can be nothing short of hilarious in the right context, so can pretty much any other kind of offensive jokes (including sexism, racism, etc.) if put into a funny context. DEMOTED has nothing redeeming at all. David Cross plays a good asshole, but didn’t put a single grin on my face for the entire run time. His talent was underutilized by this laughless, aimless, bore of a movie. DEMOTED is the worst kind of failure: a lame comedy!