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On Feb. 19, 1999, Mike Judge brought Office Space to theaters. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review of the R-rated, cult workplace comedy is below.
The true comic king of the cubicle hall has arrived in the form of Office Space, marking Mike Judge’s live-action directorial debut. An extremely funny white-collar satire filled with enough delightfully askew characters to pack a boardroom and the bright talent to do them justice, the picture should strike an achingly familiar chord with 9-to-5ers the world over.
Although the Post-It Note sized-plot can’t quite sustain the feature-length format, Judge’s loyal fan base combined with smart marketing should nevertheless result in Fox collecting a healthy paycheck.
The man who brought us Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill conveys the stress factor right off the top with a too-true morning commute sequence during which even an old guy with a walker could outdistance the creep-and-crawl rush-hour traffic.
One of those commuters is Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), a computer programmer at INITECH whose mind-numbing job is progressively driving him into an advanced catatonic state. Turning to group therapy, Peter finds himself in sustained, Zen-like bliss when his therapist keels over in mid-hypnosis, leaving him with a pronounced change in his work ethic.
But while choosing to come into work when it’s convenient would normally be seen as an instant ticket to pink slipdom, a team of recruited efficiency experts instead label Peter a “straight shooter with upper management written all over him,” much to the bewilderment of his smarm-dripping boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole).
In his newfound position of power, Peter conspires with his soon-to-be-sacked workmates Samir (Ajay Naidu) and Michael Bolton (David Herman) to hatch a get-rich-quick scheme, which is met with disapproval by Peter’s waitress girlfriend, Joanna (Jennifer Aniston).
Based on a series of Judge shorts featuring the terminally beleaguered Milton (played here to mousey perfection by Stephen Root), the guy whose desk is always being moved ever closer to the storage room, Office Space hits its intended comic target with perfect aim.
It’s too bad Judge isn’t equally productive when it comes to punching out. Given the terrific setup, the rather lackadaisical ending is flat. Still, the performers have a lot of fun getting there. Livingston takes a potentially self-involved slacker and makes him a likable anti-hero.
Cole proves there’s more than Mike Brady in his pitch-perfect comic arsenal. Great, too, are Root as the sniveling but potentially pushed-too-far Milton, Herman and Richard Riehle as Livingston’s frustrated co-workers; Aniston; and Diedrich Bader as an eavesdropping neighbor, Lawrence.
The technical performances are appropriately officious, but the most satisfying effect is the inspired decision to juxtapose all that white-collar angst with a hard-core rap soundtrack. The result has to be experienced to be truly appreciated. — Michael Rechtshaffen, originally published in the Feb. 16, 1999 weekly issue
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