Office Space (1999)

Office SpaceStarring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu, Gary Cole, Stephen Root, and John C. McGinley.
Written and directed by Mike Judge.

Grade: C+

Review by Kris Campbell.

Edge-city workplaces, modular furniture, rush-hour traffic, chain restaurants: fresh subjects for satire a decade ago, well-worn and a bit tired at the terminus of the first decade, A.D. (After Dilbert). Not that Mike Judge's choice of subject matter in Office Space, his feature-length live action debut, is necessarily a cause for criticism; to his credit, he succeeds in stringing together a motley collection of drones who possess enough quirks to make the first half of the movie genuinely funny and enjoyable.Ron Livingston Unfortunately, the tail end follows the standard comedy route, alternating between a shopworn romantic subplot and an ill-conceived revenge fantasy, ultimately trailing off into a halfhearted wrapping up of any remaining loose ends during minutes 90-93.

Peter, Samir, and Michael (Ron Livingston, Ajay Naidu, and David Herman, respectively) occupy cubicles in the vast soulless spaces of the Initech Corporation. Each is invested with his own particular frustrations, and each source of frustration (redundant bosses, pointless memos) is delineated in turn in a manner that cleverly plays off the characters' idiosyncracies (short-tempered Michael's monologues with an uncooperative copier are especially well done). At the same time, a series of amusing workplace cretins pop in and out, most notably a subdued but Stephen Rootdemanding boss (chameleon-like Gary Cole, fresh from A Simple Plan and the Brady Bunch movies), a somewhat maniacal consultant (John C. McGinley), and a pathetic mumbler with an affinity for Swingline-brand staplers (Stephen Root, playing the title character from Judge's animated "Milton" shorts done for Saturday Night Live). Meanwhile, waitress Joanne (Jennifer Aniston) is receiving multiple doses of flack from her supervisor for wearing insufficient "flair" on her uniform. It's all very well done, and Judge's penchant for creating original supporting characters (Mr. Anderson from his Beavis & Butthead days; Boomhauer from King of the Hill) translates easily to the big screen.

From that point on, well, you know the story you've seen it many, many times before. No need to go into the specifics of the film's eventual bogging down as it sinks into the familiar quagmires of unnecessary subplots and last-minutes attempts at character redemption and moralizing. Uneven as it is, Office Space is a good movie for a Friday night, when your brain is fried from too many arguments with the copy machine.

Review © March 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
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