Michael J. Fox was a huge part of developing my love for film during my formative teen years. Part of that was due to the amazingness of the Back To The Future movies, part of that was due to his charm and skill, and part of that was due to the fact that he was so prolific throughout the '80s and '90s. Not every one of those films worked, even with him trying his best in the main roles, but I can't think of any that are complete failures. I'm sure that many other people never want to revisit what may be deemed his lesser films, but I am hoping to one day see if I can still enjoy them as much as I used to (although I am doubtful).
If The Secret Of My Success is anything to go by, I might end up being pleasantly surprised.
Fox plays Brantley Foster, a small town boy who heads to New York in order to make his fortune, and a great life for himself. Unfortunately, the job he was due to have ends up falling through. It's a tough market, which leads to Brantley eventually asking for a favour from his uncle, Howard Prescott (Richard Jordan). Although not TOO close, Howard gives Brantley a job in the mail delivery department. Desperate for an opportunity to prove himself, Brantley manages to make the best possible use of some empty office space. He's focused on his path up the career ladder, apart from the times he's being distracted by his attraction to Christy Wills (Helen Slater), or when he's being seduced by an older married woman (Margaret Whitton).
The sharp script, by Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr. and AJ Carothers, is full of energy, small digs at the wasteful nature of corporate culture (and just how easy it can be to remain in employment while coasting along), and elements that come together well for a couple of standout farcical sequences.
Director Herbert Ross isn't the sort of person to stamp his own identity over any film, instead making the most of the stars and ideas that he's working with (as shown in the likes of Play It Again, Sam, Footloose, My Blue Heaven, and many of his other projects). This is no bad thing, however, especially when working with the right stars in the right roles.
Fox is definitely right for the lead here. He's wide-eyed enough to play some moments more innocently, yet also able to convince when shown building his determination and development. Slater is acceptable in her role, although she would rarely be my first choice for any role of this type and Jordan is enjoyably callous, and enjoyably ignorant of "our hero" making his moves around him. But Whitton is the person who almost steals the film entirely, and certainly steals most of the scenes that feature her making Fox far too comfortable, and then far too uncomfortable. John Pankow and Christopher Murney are fun in their supporting roles, and there are very small, but enjoyable, turns from Fred Gwynne, Mercedes Ruehl (playing a waitress), and Bruce McGill (another company employee).
Another plus is the soundtrack, which includes songs from Yello, Katrina & The Waves, Pat Benatar, Bananarama, and some other people who aren't as well-known.
If you can overlook some of the scenes and attitudes that are undeniably . . . '80s then the rest of the film remains a fun fantasy about a young man who is chasing his dream. That dream just happens to be one that involves him becoming a major player in the business world (not exactly rock 'n' roll, but a dream is a dream is a dream).
You can buy the movie on shiny disc here.
Americans can buy it here.