Office Space
Rating -

Comedy (US); 1999; Rated R; 89 Minutes

Ron Livingston:
Peter Gibbons
Jennifer Aniston: Joanne
David Herman: Michael Bolton
Ajay Naidu: Samir
Diedrich Bader: Lawrence
Stephen Root: Milton

Produced by Daniel Rappaport, Guy Riedel and Michael Kotenburg; Directed and screenwritten by Mike Judge

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Kindness is the enemy. It's also a qualification.

For Peter Gibbons, office life is concentrated on these two constantly required factors; as long as he remains pleasant and fetching, his employers remain happy yet detached from ordinary human feeling. All of this can be taken the wrong way, however, if one goes into "Office Space" not knowing what it's actually about. It is a satire, yes, but not in the usual witty ways. It conveys evil, selfishness, greediness and other things to help arrange a dank portrait of office culture and all of its negative aspects. One could almost call it a mild dark comedy, for it looks nice and screwball like, but has hidden agendas which are much more gloomy. It's one of those few movies that would have been about twenty times better if it had allowed itself to retain humor on the outside and still used its thematic elements on the inside. The movie's comedy foreground is missing; there are few scenes that deserve cracked smiles, much less uproarious laughter. Seeing it after our nations best critics gave it glowing reviews, I find that it is not funny, not well rounded, and overall not well staged. Even then, it still gets effective performances and mild satirical amusement.

Is that a distraction? Naturally. That was basically the case with last year's severely overrated "Bulworth." The satire and ambition are all intact, but the sense of humor is either lame, dead, or absolutely offensive. I classify these movies either bad or good (not mixed) because the idea and the humor are a package deal, hand-in-hand. You take one of them away, and what does the other have to live for? I liked the idea "Bulworth" was trying to achieve, but gave it the absolutely zero star rating because its funny-bone crumbled under the weight of moral repugnance, and made the movie into a series of shameless situations that went on and on until you felt nausious. While "Office Space" never gets that bad, it doesn't stray far from being kind of sickening. Perhaps that's because the film was made by a funny man, named Mike Judge.

You should know him. After all, who else would be smart enough to create the animated morons named Beavis and Butthead? Just two-and-a-half years ago, their movie, "Do America," was on my ten best list of 1996. This year, "Office Space" might have had the potential to do so, if Judge had not been so concerned on capturing the atmosphere of office work and leaned a little toward what he's really good at (the comedy).

The film's best scenes are more towards the beginning, because they seem to spawn a more unique sense of humor; it's the type that works, too. In the first, a car driver is exasperated by switching lanes in a traffic jam, only to be disappointed when the lane right beside him begins moving. This is hilarious and extremely accurate to Judge's vision. More scenes follow, and then are stretched apart for the duration of the last half of the film, in which boredom begins to set in and take over any appreciation we might have felt for the concept. There is, for starters, a character named Michael Bolton, who spends the movie irritating over the same problem; "why should I change my name when Michael Bolton, the singer, is the one who sucks?"

Everything here is pretty much mixed in the way it approaches the fascinating satirical treatment. Yes, some of it is funny, but most of it is what you call part of a 'dead-zone.' To show that I'm not entirely ruthless, like I was with Beatty's "Bulworth," I am giving Judge's film one star, instead of what it might have gotten for being totally boring: a half star or even zero stars. Sometimes it's necessary to downgrade these types of movies to make a point about the satire's influencing the humor. If it's not funny, then is the satire meant to be something else? If so, shouldn't the filmmakers tell us?

1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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