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Friday, December 21, 2001

Ready for prime time

Movie: Joe Somebody

Posted on Fri, Dec 21, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Our Rating: 3.50

This holiday, the best TV you see might be at the movies. It's "Joe Somebody," a film that -- though it sure ain't cinematic art -- makes the most of an infusion of top tube talent and network-style attributes.

Chief among that talent is "Home Improvement" veteran Tim Allen, whose biggest success off the small screen has been providing voice-overs for the "Toy Story" movies. Allen plays Joe Scheffer, a talented but dull drone in a large Minneapolis drug company. His life mired in mid-level doldrums and divorce, Joe finds things looking even worse on Take Your Daughter To Work Day, when a bigger, tougher coworker named Mark (Patrick Warburton) slaps him during a parking-lot dispute. After slipping into despair, Joe emerges with a firm resolve to fight Mark again. His co-workers are betting on the rematch, and Joe rides his buoyant mood to court Meg (Julie Bowen), the cute wellness director at work.

Joe's determination to remake his life seems for all the world like the foundation of a miniseries, and the resemblance becomes more pronounced when you notice the TV-bred faces that keep popping up. There's 11-year-old Hayden Panettiere, taking a break from her five-year career on "The Guiding Light" to play Joe's daughter. Bowen looks just great playing essentially the same character she plays on "Ed." Hulking Warburton, now starring in "The Tick," performed recurring guest roles on both "Seinfeld" (as Elaine's boyfriend, Puddy) and "NewsRadio." And Meg's would-be paramour in human resources, Jeremy, is none other than Greg Germann, "Ally McBeal's" Richard Fish.

The familiar, make-points-before-the-commercials pacing of the story comes from director John Pasquin, who started out on "Home Improvement" and "Roseanne" before branching out into lightweight features like "Jungle2Jungle" (also with Allen).

Lucky for us, the personages listed above have been responsible for some of the most enjoyable entertainment seen on the tube recently. And that's exactly what they present here: Nice. Enjoyable. Television. You'll get a kick out of those oh-so-cute smiles that Bowen flashes so easily and so well. You'll marvel at how mature and effective Panettiere is at playing a precocious 8th-grader. And, of course, you can't help but enjoy the balance of silly physical comedy and off-hand one-liners that has made Allen a welcome living-room visitor since 1991.

But resist the temptation to take a break every 12 minutes, OK? You'll miss some Nice. Enjoyable. Television.


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