In the 2000s, Jessica Simpson had a successful music career, and became a reality television star with Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. But at the height of her career, Simpson decided to try acting in a handful of comedies. Alongside such films as 2005’s The Dukes of Hazzard and 2007’s Blonde Ambition, Simpson starred in the 2006 comedy Employee of the Month, alongside Dane Cook and Dax Shepard, which is leaving Netflix at the end of January.
In Employee of the Month, Dane Cook plays Zack Bradley, who works at a Costco-like store called “Super Club.” Zack is lazy, but he’s kind and well-liked by those who know him. Also working at Super Club is Dax Shepard’s Vince Downey, a showoff who has won the Employee of the Month title seventeen times in a row. When new cashier Amy Renfro – played by Jessica Simpson – arrives at the store, Zack hears a rumor that she slept with the Employee of the Month at her last job. With Zack and Vince vying for the affection of Amy, Zack attempts to dethrone Vince as the Employee of the Month.
Not only was Employee of the Month an opportunity for Jessica Simpson to show she could act, but it was also the first star of then-popular comedian Dane Cook. Employee of the Month was his first starring role, which would lead to performances in films like Good Luck Chuck, Mr. Brooks, Dan in Real Life, and My Best Friend’s Girl. Recently, Cook has appeared in an episode of American Gods and Comedy Bang! Bang!, and voiced the character of Dusty Crophopper in the Planes franchise.
But Employee of the Month was the last major role for Jessica Simpson as an actress. After this, she would appear in Blonde Ambition, then as herself in Mike Myers’ flop The Love Guru. Her final film role would be in 2008’s Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous. Since Employee of the Month, Simpson put out a few more records, with her last album coming out in 2010, while she still appears on reality television from time-to-time, as she’s popped up on The Biggest Loser and Fashion Star in the early 2010s.
Employee of the Month wasn’t the hit that stars Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook hoped it would be. The film made a little over $38 million worldwide, and opened in the United States at #4, coming behind other new releases The Departed and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. The film also received a negative response from critics. Employee of the Month currently has a 20% on the Tomatometer, with a 53% audience score, and a 36 on Metacritic.
Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post said of Employee of the Month, “Rarely has an actress exuded such blank nothingness as Simpson, a one-woman vapid delivery system who sucks the energy and joy out of every scene she’s in, like some freakishly well-endowed black hole.” Luke Y. Thompson said of LA Weekly, “As for Jessica Simpson…her character is virtually irrelevant, as is her acting ability.” However, Robert Koehler of Variety said the film was “Falling short of being truly memorable but sharper than the general slagheap of comedies.”
Despite it’s commercial and critical disappointments, Employee of the Month is great at being an oddly perfect encapsulation of 2000s comedies. Stars like Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson, and Dax Shepard were huge during this period, but now aren’t starring in their own films. The film also features Andy Dick and Napoleon Dynamite’s Efren Ramirez, which is just about the most 2000s casting you can get. Employee of the Month might not be a comedic masterpiece, but it is a strange throwback for those craving some 2000s nostalgia.