Thursday 6 May 2021

Movie Review: The Secret Of My Success (1987)

A comedy set in the corporate world, The Secret Of My Success maximizes the charismatic star power of Michael J. Fox in a rompy but otherwise routine misadventure.

New college graduate Brantley Foster (Fox) leaves his home on a Kansas farm and heads to New York City to seek his fortune. When his first job falls through, he connects with distant Uncle Howard Prescott (Richard Jordan), CEO of the gigantic Pemrose corporation, and secures a mail room job where Fred Melrose (John Pankow) teaches him the ropes. 

Entranced by the beauty of Christy Wills (Helen Slater), the firm's only female executive, Brantley has no intentions of hanging around the mail room for too long. He barely survives seduction by Howard's lustful wife Vera (Margaret Whitton), then educates himself about the company and takes over an empty office, pretending to be fake executive Carlton Whitfield. Brantley starts influencing corporate decisions, all while keeping up with his mail room duties, fending off Vera, and romancing Christy.

Enjoying quality production values, the directorial talents of Herbert Ross, an occasional good laugh, and a prototypically obnoxious 1980s soundtrack, The Secret Of My Success is amiable, high energy, sometimes frenzied, and a perfect star vehicle for Michael J. Fox. The script is an unofficial non-musical remake of 1967's How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, and at 111 minutes the material is stretched thin, Ross often favouring the flabbier cuts.

But trading on his boyish-adult charm, Fox carries the premise and runs with it. His innocent-yet-smart persona is a perfect fit at a corporation so big that barely anyone knows what is going on. This is fertile ground for an ambitious college grad eager to carve his own path, and Brantley proceeds to find unique shortcuts to the top. His progress is complicated by icky but funny liaisons with "aunt" Vera (a sparkling Margaret Whitton), and a more mundane romantic pursuit of Christy (a much less convincing Helen Slater).

The affairs, revenge affairs, and clueless corporate intrigue combine with mixed-up identities to create a few worthwhile madcap moments. The counterbalancing silliness includes a sub-sub-plot about a mail room supervisor eager to expose Brantley's double-life, and a rushed yet predictably saccharine boardroom climax.

Never threatening to rise above a fun day at the office, The Secret Of My Success punches the clock with enthusiasm.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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