Jim (Frank Whaley) isn’t the brightest bloke in the community. He struggles to hold a job, still lives with his parents, continually lies to everyone around him, and has failed to discover his true purpose as an adult. When Jim loses his job at an animal shelter, his father forces him into a job interview with the well-known retail giant Target. With no other choice, Jim goes for the interview. While the job sounds amazing, and he is promised a salary of forty-five grand with benefits, it turns out to be a case of mistaken identity. Instead, Jim is applying for the position of night clean-up boy, aka janitor, and the actual pay per hour is as little as $4.44 per hour. Again, with no choice or other job offers available, Jim accepts the role.
At the same time, the film introduces us to Josie (Jennifer Connelly), who comes from a wealthy home where she lives with her businessman father. With personal issues occurring at home, including physical abuse, Josie visits her local Target. She steals some items with hopes of being arrested because that’s a better option than returning home. However, Josie’s plans don’t go as she hoped when she falls asleep in one of the changing rooms and wakes up long after everyone has gone home. Now, she is locked inside the store for the night along with the chatty and playful night cleaner, Jim. The two hang out and while the night away, having some random fun in the store and playing with most of its products. As the night progresses, the pair discover they have one significant aspect in common: the desire to have a fresh start in life. Intimate feelings are also shared between the two.
However, things change from fun to serious when a pair of crooks, Nestor (Dermot Mulroney) & Gil (Kieran Mulroney), break into the store to rob it. Their plans are interrupted when they discover Jim and Josie are inside the store. Now, Jim and Josie are being held hostage at gunpoint with no way of escape or ability to call for help from outside the store. Can Jim and Josie find a clever way to escape the crooks, survive the night, and start a fresh life together?
Career Opportunities was directed by Bryan Gordon, who later worked on future TV hits, including Freaks and Geeks, The West Wing, Maybe It’s Me, The Office, and many more. It is a comedy with romantic moments. One of the other significant contributors to this film is its writer, John Hughes. While watching the film, it’s impossible not to see the similarities to the Christmas family film Home Alone, released in 1990 and written by John Hughes. Both movies allow us to watch our leads, trapped in a single location, defend themselves from a pair of dim-witted crooks and get up to plenty of mischief.
While Jim is highly silly and dorky, his lively talk and energetic personality help him remain likable despite his flat-out annoying moments; however, his playful jokes don’t always get a laugh. The more compelling character and performance comes from Josie, played by Jennifer Connelly. As a character, Josie is more likable, given her maturity, playfulness, and ability to stand up for herself and speak up. The chemistry between both actors is excellent, particularly their heartfelt friendship when they first meet. Sadly, the pair of crooks that come along later in the film, while achieving a couple of gags, are silly and disappointing.
Overall, Career Opportunities is a brainless comedy with moments of romance and silliness combined. To my surprise, the film also introduces impacting themes, particularly regarding abuse and discovering your purpose in life. Writer John Hughes has woven many similarities to the Christmas smash hit Home Alone into the story which are impossible to ignore. Our leading characters, played by Frank Whaley and Jennifer Connelly, are both quite likable and have enjoyable chemistry on-screen, which is especially believable in their friendship. The jokes are hit and miss, and when combined with the silly, childish villains, there are some missed ‘Opportunities’ here. Regardless, it remains a fun comedy, no matter its imperfections.