Posted: 11/21/2000

 

Office Space

(1999)

by Del Harvey



A truly humorous film from the guy who gave us Beavis and Hank Hill? Yep!


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This is a very on-target comedy written and directed by Mike Judge of Beavis and Butthead and King Of The Hill fame. Office Space is about a disgruntled white-collar office worker named Peter (Ron Livingston) who is a computer programmer for a firm that’s more concerned with policies and procedures than productivity. He becomes so apathetic in his work that he practically begs to be fired. But, with eight bosses constantly bombarding him with conflicting memos and directives, his lethargy goes unnoticed. When a pair of efficiency consultants—aptly named ‘Bob and Bob’—are called in to weed out the chaff, they listen to Peter’s brutally honest depiction of his daily routine with great interest. They analyze the situation and surmise the best option would be to give Peter a promotion, a raise, and a couple of subordinates. At the same time, they’re going to fire the two office workers who are the most productive.

This is a very funny, very accurate rendition of our times. This is Dilbert without the hype or commercialism. Some may not appreciate the sarcastic tone or the hip-hop versions of songs like Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job And Shove It” (performed here by Canibus and Biz Markie). Chances are these are people without a sense of humor, anyway, so just ignore them. They won’t get the fact that they live this life and that they are these people!

Mike Judge succeeded in making a comedy that is both funny and timely. The biggest surprise is that there is little reliance on flatulence or profanity. The story really centers on the character and morality of our society. Even the unknown actors in this film excel in their portrayals of contemporary middle class.

Among the “knowns” are Jennifer Anniston as Peter’s girlfriend, Joanna, who holds down a job at a local chain restaurant and is constantly being scolded by her effeminate heterosexual boss to “add more flair” to her attitude—which seems to mean adding more buttons and pins to her costume. Diedrich Bader of The Drew Carey Show plays Peter’s neighbor Lawrence, a long-haired, beer-swilling blue collar worker and Peter’s best friend.

News Radio’s station manager, Stephen Root, plays a myopic, mumbling Dilbert-type who was fired two years ago but continues to come to work and collect a paycheck because no one bothered to give him his pink slip. And Gary Cole (Tv’s American Gothic and The Brady Bunch Movie) plays one of the bosses, Lumbergh, a completely useless individual who will remind you of at least one executive in your workplace. And there are many more ironic, but perfectly plausible, characters like these.

Office Space is a cool breeze among the light-and-fluffy or over-the-top would-be comedies that typically flood the video and DVD aisles. Watch this one with a cooler full of brews and a couple of your co-workers. You’ll come away with a smile.

And buy the soundtrack. I did, and I play it at work, at least once a week. It helps.

Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He is also a devout Chicago Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.



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