You’d assume that a movie starring TV actors and directed by a veteran TV director (John Pasquin) would have its fill of pithy one-liners, a pretty predictable plot and a dearth of wide-screen vistas. Yes, Joe Somebody couldn’t completely escape its TV roots. Even so, it’s a terrific little feel-good movie — funny, touching and sweet — and a good choice for a bargain matinee that both the kids and their grandparents will enjoy. Tim Allen (TV’s Home Improvement) is easy to root for as Joe Scheffer, the single dad recovering from the hole his ex-wife left in his heart. On Take Your Daughter to Work Day at the huge pharmaceutical complex in Minneapolis where he works, Joe is beaten up by the company bully in front of his daughter, Callie (Hayden Panetierre, TV’s Guiding Light), and a crowd of horrified co-workers. He’s so humiliated he refuses to return to work. Fearful that Joe will sue the company for failing to provide a safe workplace, the corporate human-relations nerds lay a web to get him back on the job long enough to void any lawsuit. Unknowingly sent out to do the company’s dirty work is the idealistic director of the Wellness program, perky Meg Harper (TV actress Julie Bowen). Joe convinces himself that the only way to regain his pride is to fight the bully again. He announces to the world his intention to have a rematch in three weeks — a decision that makes him a hero in the eyes of others in the company who hate the bully’s guts. From a “nobody” making corporate videos, Joe becomes a real “somebody” — complete with a key to the executive gym, his own parking space and that long-awaited promotion. To learn how to fight, Joe takes karate lessons from a former martial-arts movie idol turned drunken philosopher, played by Jim Belushi (Canine 911). Joe’s Way of the Warrior is potholed with pulled tendons, torn ligaments and nightmares filled with dueling grocery carts. But as he gains confidence, Joe starts acting and looking like a hero. He’s impressing all the “right” people in town, and his ex-wife (Kelly Lynch, Charlie’s Angels) dons a red silk teddy and fur coat to make a surprise visit to the newly beefed-up Joe. Thank goodness Callie insists Mom stay home with her instead, leaving Joe free to pursue the ever-perky Meg. Alas, falling in love is more terrifying than facing the company bully, and Joe sadly admits to Meg that he’s not yet ready to do more than flirt. When the big day arrives Joe finally realizes who and what in life is really worth struggling for. Being somebody to himself and those who love him means he’s found the truth of a real man of courage: “I’m not afraid not to fight.” Aw, golly, gee whiz, ain’t it swell when the good folks finish best?
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