Making the Grades
Desperate to get movie money from teens and twenty-somethings, Hollywood has devised a new formula that speaks to the masses slaving away at minimum wage retail jobs in suburban America. Employee of the Month is the latest installment in this genre that dishes out empathy to its intended audience -- even if it does cost them at least an hour of sweat labor for admission.
Deep in the outer reaches of asphalt-land in a warehouse-style store, Zack (Dane Cook) shows up each day for his box-boy job. Tardy and lazy, he spends most of his time hiding away in a forgotten corner with his co-workers Russel (Harland Williams), Iqbal (Brian George) and nearly blind Lon (Andy Dick). In an unofficial competition, the slouchers race to see who can complete the least amount of work and still pickup a paycheck.
Meanwhile, at the front of the store, Vince (Dax Shepard) enjoys the notoriety and privilege of being a cashier (a coveted job within the scope of this movie). Wooing soccer moms with his ability to scan items while doing a juggling act, his magnetic personality and supposed efficiency has made him a top worker and accounts for his 17 consecutive wins of the Employee of the Month Award. If he can achieve the title once more, he will be fast tracked into management and receive a car.
Such incentives haven't motivated Zack -- or apparently any other employees -- to contend for the honor. But when Amy (Jessica Simpson) shows up as a new cashier and rumors being to circulate (thanks to a major leak in the human resources department) that the beautiful blonde only dates Employee of the Month winners, Zack suddenly has a reason to contend for the prize. The satisfaction of terminating Vince's winning streak would be an added bonus.
As is the case with most films in this category, sexual humor and rude jokes regarding body functions are the basis for most of the "laughs." Profanities are frequent too, with the use of virtually every crude term for sex included, along with a hand gesture. Another consistent ingredient in this genre is a high dependence on stereotyped characters. The nerd has thick glasses, the fat African-American security guard is referred to as "retarded," and it's implied that the timid store manager is gay after we see him acting out a scenario with two male dolls. Finally, Vince's one groupie, Jorge (Efren Ramirez), is a slow thinking Latino whom is often taken advantage of.
The only shred of a positive message offered in the movie comes as Zack begins to recognize that becoming Employee of the Month requires a desire from within him rather than just the promise of women or cars. This realization necessitates he put his life in order, get up on time, and learn to be courteous and honest. Still, his last minute makeover isn't enough to recommend this underachiever as teen movie of the month.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Employee of the Month.
What are some of the different reasons affecting an employee’s performance? Do you think those motivated by extrinsic goals (like winning a car or a girlfriend) would do a better job than those who are intrinsically motivated (meaning they have an inner desire or personal ethic) to be better workers?