Employee of the Month is a sports movie that involves almost no sports -- the simple tale of a man who must win a one-on-one competition in order to get the girl transposed into the unheroic world of discount outlet clerks. The nod to all those other sports movies is a few moments of softball. Given that this movie is by nature slighter than all of the films it is responding to, the story works extraordinarily well, and, although you know how it is intended to end, in the final minutes you will really be doubting.
The quirky take on the story line is supported by some beautifully quirky performances by the minor characters, especially the semi-bonkers granny who spurs protagonist Zack on to accomplishing the task he was really meant for.
I put off watching this film for several years simply because the premise sounded so small-scale and trivial, and the plot so formulaic. Somehow the writers, cast and directors conjure something quite different from what I expected. If you sketch the plot out it would seem to be completely standard fare: protagonist has to come back from a nearly lost position to draw level, but loses is nerve right before the final contest as he loses the girl, his friends and his reason for playing. Words from the wise granny rekindle the flame, the friends rally round him, and he makes it to the final. Actually, this completely belies what the film is about, with real emotional weight being attached to the symbolism of the cashier's lounge, the daily gold stars and the motivations of the minor characters.
When the climax comes -- and it is completely not what you're expecting -- it is a character you have more or less ignored who turns the story around.
I was expecting to give this two stars. Five instead. I shall be watching again.