The office comedy Demoted is currently available on Blu-ray from Anchor Bay, reviving a sweeter and more innocuous variety of gleefully offensive adolescent slapstick humor. Demoted gets in more than its fair share of stripper jokes and toilet humor, but its sharp supporting cast and adorably fumbling good intentions are what make it truly stand out as a strong example of its prestigious and underappreciated subgenre.
Sean Astin and Michael Vartan play Mike and Rodney, a pair of ambitiously-challenged roustabout salesmen at a tire company whose elbow-bumping privileged status within the ranks of the company is undermined when their fawning coot of a boss drops dead of a heart attack. Left to fend for themselves, Mike and Rodney find themselves at the mercy of Ken Castro (David Cross), a formerly harangued, nerdy co-worker whom corporate higher-ups opt to promote to the newly available supervisory position. Seeking revenge on his two primary tormenters, Ken arbitrarily demotes Mike and Rodney to the secretary pool, figuring they’ll be so humiliated and miserable that they’ll eventually quit and spare the company the heartache of issuing them severance packages.
Discovering that their lack of significant accomplishments or corporate ascension has made them unqualified for most other jobs outside the company, Mike and Rodney are forced to adapt to their new situation – no small task, considering that their rampant misogyny and general, bleating obnoxiousness have earned them a horrendously foul reputation amongst their newly acquired bevy of low-ranking female coworkers.
Workplace comedies have gradually become a modest subgenre unto themselves with the North American success of both the British and American versions of The Office, and the reigning cult status of prior entries like Mike Judge’s Office Space. Demoted nails a lot of the subgenre’s broader tropes, focusing especially on office politics and the particular strain of social backbiting that permeates mid-level sales environments.
Although its treatment is admittedly not always the most enlightened and progressive one ever conceived, the movie ends up being largely about workers’ rights, and more pointedly, about gender discrimination – all the secretaries are going to college or working separate jobs to support themselves when all they really want is to be promoted to sales representatives. Regardless of its specific hits and misses, it’s kind of adorable and sweet to see a movie filled with dick jokes and exploding toilets trying so hard to simultaneously be socially conscious, and its combination of sweetness and abrasive irreverence is winning ultimately.
Anchor Bay’s disc unfortunately does not have commentary or special features, which is disappointing mainly because it has such a good supporting cast. David Cross, naturally, is the standout performer, but Celia Weston, Ron White, and Astin all basically hold their own as well. The movie by itself is more than worth the purchase price, though, recalling a more innocent era when crass sex jokes could more easily co-exist in the same movie with actual plots and characters with relatable motivations.