Office Space review by Mike Long

There are plenty of movies which are successful because a lot of people like them. (I know how dumb that sounds, but stick with me.) Take the Star Wars movies for example. Millions of people see those films, find them entertaining, and enjoy them simply for the sake of entertainment. But, there are also movies which people enjoy because they relate to them. In these films, viewers find characters, events, or situations, which are familiar, and thus the viewer feels in-tune with the film. The workplace comedy Office Space is such a film, as it presents a world to which many American office workers can relate.

Ron Livingston stars in Office Space as Peter Gibbons, an office worker for a company called Initech. Peter isn't a very happy man, as he hates his job, hates his annoying boss Lumbergh (Gary Cole), and is having trouble in his relationship with his girlfriend, Anne (Alexandra Wentworth). He confides in his co-workers Samir Nagheenanajar (Ajay Naidu) and Michael Bolton (David Herman) (not the singer), as well as his neighbor, Lawrence (Diedrich Bader), but they offer him little solace.

Things change when Anne takes Peter to see a hypnotherapist. This session washes away all of Peter's worries and he decides to start doing exactly what he's always wanted to do -- nothing. He breaks up with Anne and finally finds the courage to ask out Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), a waitress that he's had his eyes on. Peter also begins to skip work, and goes to the office only to meet with a pair of consultants (John C. McGinley and Paul Wilson) who have been brought in to overhaul the company. Much to Peter's surprise, his lackadaisical nature is mistaken for untapped potential and he is seen as a young go-getter at work. Fed up with the inept corporate structure of Initech, Peter tries to convince Samir and Michael to help him take the company down. Meanwhile, the long-suffering Milton (Stephen Root), a mumbling, nervous man, is constantly hassled by Lumbergh.

Office Space comes from writer/director Mike Judge, who, at the time, was best known for his animated shows, Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill (The film is based on a series of "Milton" animated shorts created by Judge). Both of those shows were noteworthy for taking recognizable real-world situations and exaggerating them to the point of absurdity. The same kind of material appears in Office Space. There will be moments in the film which will ring true to most members of the audience. Despite the fact that the film is set in the office of a high-tech firm, and to a lesser extent, a restaurant, the portrayals of Peter's co-workers and supervisors will be familiar to anyone who has worked in an environment with other people. Judge, who spent several years working as an engineer, clearly has an acute eye and ear for office politics and drudgery, as evidenced by the annoying receptionist, Lumbergh's condescending attitude, the corporate double-talk, the use of consultants, enraged co-workers, and pointless office morale-boosters. Office Space is that rare film where every scene brings a new revelation and a new reason to laugh or simply nod in agreement.

But, this brings us to one of the two major problems with Office Space. The first 2/3 of the movie certainly has a story, but Peter's plight seems to be little more than the glue which holds together very clever vignettes portraying the daily monotony of the workplace. Yes, these scenes are funny, and many of them are classic (such as when Judge leaves the workplaces and points the finger at cheaply constructed "singles" apartments), but they don't necessarily add up to a cohesive movie. Judge seems to sense this, as he adds a great deal of drama to the last 1/3 of the film, creating the other problem with the movie. Judge seems to have painted himself into a corner with Peter's plot. The fact that Peter succeeds only when he ceases to care is a fantastic idea and Judge should have found a way to ride that to a conclusion. Instead, he brings in a white-collar crime sub-plot which simply doesn't work. The eventual finale of the film is satisfying, but much of the final act feels forced and isn't very funny.

Despite these blemishes, Office Space is a minor modern classic. The film acts like a live-action version of the "Dilbert" comic strip as it accurately portrays the modern American workplace while mocking it at the same time. Mike Judge proved that he could succeed without using animation and he got great performances from his cast, most notably Livingston and Root. Gary Cole creating an iconic character which I'm sure is imitated in offices across the country. If nothing else, Office Space works as collective therapy as it can help everyone remember that for most people, work is a frustrating and screwed-up place.

A newly released edition of Office Space works its way onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. This new "Special Edition with Flair!" replaces the earlier bare-bones DVD releases of the film. This edition is available in both widescreen and full-frame formats. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the image is sharp and clear. There is no overt grain on the image, but I did notice some very minor defects from the source material in the form of white specks on the screen. The colors look very good and the image is never too bright or too dark. There is some minor artifacting to be had here, but otherwise the transfer looks good. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The track delivers clear dialogue, but the dynamic range is somewhat off. The bass-heavy rap music used in the film is much, much louder than the dialogue and I constantly found myself adjusting the volume in order to keep things consistent. While that bass sounded fine, the way that it overpowered the speech was distracting.

For a "Special Edition with Flair!", this new DVD is light on extras. "Out of the Office: An Office Space Retrospective" (27 minutes) is a newly-made featurette which offers interviews with much of the principal cast, save for Aniston, who is only seen in archive footage. The speakers talk about their experiences on the film, as they talk about their characters, and the way that Judge approached making the film . They also talk about the impact of the film and the staying power which it has had. The DVD also contains 8 "Deleted Scenes" with encompass 5 1/2 minutes of footage. There are some funny moments here, but the only standout is a brief moment where we learn the fate of one of the film's main characters. The only other extra is the "Theatrical Trailer" for the movie, which letterboxed at 2.35:1 and is 16 x 9. The featurette is good, but this is the rare film where I would have welcomed an audio commentary.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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