Plot: Laurel (Whoopi Goldberg) has a brilliant mind for business and her ideas have led to great gains for her employers, but her partner Frank (Tim Daly) winds up with most of the credit. This is because while her eye for business is much sharper than Frank’s, the corporate finance world isn’t prepared for a strong woman, so they lavish Frank with the praise instead. When he is given a crucial promotion instead of her, she decides enough is enough and starts her own investment firm. She leverages all of her assets to make it happen, but still runs into problems, as no one seems willing to work with a female, so she concocts a new plan. Laurel decides that if they want a man, she will give them one, a fictional one named Mr. Cutty. This male figurehead combined with her great ideas leads to a boom in her business, but when people push to meet Mr. Cutty in person, how long can Laurel maintain the ruse?
Entertainment Value: The Associate is a mediocre comedy at best, but one I have seen numerous times and always been entertained. The narrative is one we’ve seen before, but it is handled in such a ludicrous, over the top fashion here, it adds immense silliness and to me, that makes the movie more fun. I am sure some will find the ridiculous elements to be too wacky or just plain dumb, but at least the movie has some wild moments to soak in. I mean, when Whoopi transforms into Mr. Cutty, it is beyond outlandish and treated as believable within the movie, which makes it so much more hilarious. I’m pretty sure Helen Keller would know something was off about Mr. Cutty, so when everyone in the movie accepts this lumbering weirdo as a real person, it is quite an experience. As a traditional comedy, The Associate is likely to elicit few laughs, but as a cinematic car crash, I think there is solid entertainment value here, especially if you appreciate terrible 90s comedies.
This is a vehicle for Whoopi Goldberg, so she has the lead and is in almost every scene as the focal point. Her performance is pretty standard for her style, not all that hilarious, but decent enough. You can’t put all the blame on her this time however, as the script is lackluster and gives her little to work with. Her turn is passable, but the worse the material becomes, the more fun her performance is. She seems to embrace the wackiness at a certain point, which makes the movie more fun and once she starts to be Mr. Cutty, it is just ridiculous. I love the scenes with Goldberg as Mr. Cutty, from the laughable prosthetic to the stilted vocal performance to the unnatural overall presence, those scenes are the movie’s main draw. Tim Daly is fine as the slimy chauvinist, while Bebe Neuwirth shines in a small role, especially the awkward scenes where she tries to seduce Mr. Cutty. The cast also includes Zeljko Ivanek, Lainie Kazan, Dianne Weist, and Eli Wallach.