Office Space Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1999

Work sucks!

Mike Judge has made quite a name for himself in the field of animation, first with being the infamous creator of "Beavis and Butthead", as well as creating the hit Fox primetime animated series "King of the Hill". "Office Space" is Judge's first foray into live-action feature films, and though it illustrates Judge's talent for identifying and skewering modern-day absurdity, it was somewhat lacking in the story department to truly make it a truly outstanding effort.

"Office Space" follows the daily travails of Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingstone of "Swingers"), a Y2K computer software engineer working at Initech. In a series of opening vignettes, Peter must tolerate a number of annoyances that will strike a chord with anyone of the 'cubicle culture'-- the 'faster lane' that seems always out of reach during the commute, the passive-aggressive boss that is a stickler for protocol, the irritating voice of the receptionist that drones on incessantly throughout the day, and the coworkers who manage to do absolutely nothing all day long. Sick and tired of the toll that work is taking on his psyche, Peter sees a hypnotherapist in the hopes of finding some relief of his work-related anxiety.

Unfortunately, the hypnotherapist suffers a fatal heart attack before Peter's treatment is complete, which creates an unexpected pathological nonchalant attitude towards work. Peter begins showing up late for work (or not showing up at all), dressing casually, ignoring his boss, and even works up enough courage to ask out a waitress (Jennifer Aniston of "Friends" and "Picture Perfect") that he has been eyeing for a while.

Meanwhile, the oily office manager of Initech, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole of "A Simple Plan"), has called in a couple of consultants (John C. McGinley and Paul Wilson), so-called 'efficiency experts', to assist in downsizing the company. With imminent layoffs in the air, Peter hatches a scheme with two of his fellow programmers (Ajay Naidu and David Herman) to embezzle money from the company.

If "Office Space" sounds unfocused, that's because it is. Unfortunately, Judge tries to be all things to all people with this effort, resulting in a film that spends too much time distracting itself. With its corporate culture commentary, romance, and crime-caper subplots, Judge's script spreads itself a little too thinly. For example, Aniston is the most recognizable face in the ensemble, yet she is relegated to the thankless role as the requisite love interest, and her scenes do not mesh well with the rest of the film. It is almost as if Judge had run out of ideas and needed to pad the script. It would have been preferable to ditch the romance subplot in favor of more acerbic skewering of the underdeveloped consultant characters, or further development of the situations arising from Peter's desire to get fired. Furthermore, while the crime-caper aspect of the film does have its moments, it never really conveys the sense of urgency required to create any level of suspense in the story, and ends up not having the impact expected.

In addition, "Office Space" is not a 'laugh out loud' kind of film-- some of the jokes work, and some of them fall flat. Instead, it contains more of the subtle smirky kind of humor that would appeal to the "Dilbert" crowd. And while it doesn't have the consistency and sharp dialogue of last year's "Clockwatchers", "Office Space" does manage to create a few standout moments, especially a couple of segments where street-wise gangsta rap is effectively used as an anthem for white collar rage.

"Office Space" is good, but not great. Despite a scatterbrained plot and acting that wavers in places, the satirical material should resonate with anyone who has ever had to tolerate the idiosyncrasies of corporate culture.

Images courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox. All rights reserved.

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