Movie: Management

Jet Rating: 2 of 4
Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn star in "Management."

Nothing harms a potentially quirky movie more than unlikable characters. So, unless you somehow buy into the ludicrous players – and premise – of “Management,” then enduring their impractical exploits will make you squirm, too.

The nonsense starts early when Mike (played by the usually reliable Steve Zahn), working at a roadside Arizona motel owned by his parents, worms himself into the room of an attractive guest (Jennifer Aniston) and talks her into letting him touch her butt.

“Just once,” Aniston’s Sue says, “and then you have to go.” (Yeah, right!)

Well, the poor schlep did follow her rules exactly. Next thing we know he’s getting a completely memorable good-bye “rendezvous” in the community laundry room before she heads back to Maryland.

No fool, this guy Mike – but no very smart cookie, either – he’s soon spending his meager savings to follow his conquest home to Baltimore. That’s where not-so-sweet Sue isn’t exactly thrilled by his stalking presence at her corporate workplace.

Well, one thing, such as her penchant for helping the homeless, leads to another, his goofy Haiku poetry, and maybe there is hope for the couple, and perhaps their film.

Woody Harrelson goes wacky in "Management."Woody Harrelson goes wacky in "Management."

Just then, though, Woody Harrelson shows up as a weirdo yogurt tycoon who sweeps ex-girlfriend Sue back into his arms and across the country to Washington. That sends Mike to a monastery and, not coincidentally, begins a total deterioration of all things remotely convincing, except for a genuine moment or two involving Mike’s mom and dad (Margo Martindale and Fred Ward).

As if the protagonists’ lack of appeal (and chemistry with one another) doesn’t give debut director Stephen Belber enough challenges, there’s also the little problem of what someone thought might be a charming romantic comedy just not being very funny. In fact, Belber, who takes a writing credit, too, mines his only legitimate laughs out of a sequence that finds the forlorn Mike briefly working in a Chinese restaurant (opposite a promising newcomer named James Hiroyuki Liao).

Otherwise, parachuting into a swimming pool, singing outside a lost love’s bedroom, and other dullish attempts at rekindling an already bizarre romance instigate more annoyances than smiles. Even celebrity power from Aniston, whose odd vibe seems much less productive than her similar turn in “The Good Girl” a full seven years ago, can’t save this mis-managed attempt at enterprise.

Rated: R
Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, Margo Martindale, Fred Ward, James Hiroyuki Liao
Director: Stephen Belber

Studio/Official Site: http://www.managementfilm.com/

[John M. Urbancich has been reviewing movies and writing film features and celebrity profiles at Cleveland's Sun Newspapers for 25 years. As a longtime member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, his work has been appearing on the Sun News website for more than a decade. John also regularly updates his own site at www.JMuvies.com ]

Photos courtesy the Samuel Goldwyn Company.