Just over a year ago, "Up in the Air" was heralded for being remarkably timely with its tale of corporate downsizing. Somehow, the similarly themed "The Company Men" already feels stale in comparison.

Just over a year ago, "Up in the Air" was heralded for being remarkably timely with its tale of corporate downsizing.

Somehow, the similarly themed "The Company Men" already feels stale in comparison. Is it because we've moved on from our pink-slip fears? Or just that it's an inferior movie?

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is a top sales executive at a transportation conglomerate. He's the portrait of stock-option comfort, so he's inevitably laid off during downsizing.

Elsewhere in the company, an altruistic top exec (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to protect his beloved shipbuilding division from his longtime friend and CEO (Craig T. Nelson), who is anxious to make any move to boost stock prices.

Writer-director John Wells makes his feature-film debut, and he couldn't have asked for a much better situation, from the talented, experienced cast to the always-stellar cinematography of Roger Deakins.

It's that pedigree that makes "The Company Men" so disappointing.

Wells has a tough time eliciting sympathy for his upper-middle-class layoff victims. Who can't relate to having to sell the Porsche or - gasp! - letting your country club membership expire? Times are tough.

The performances are solid if only average for this cast. Affleck is running on earnestness, and great talents like Chris Cooper and Maria Bello are underused.

By the end, the only lesson learned is that corporate greed has victims. I knew that at least a year ago.