Volume 92, Issue 80
Thursday, February 18, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Kicking cubicles in the ass
Photo by Van Redlin
By Anthony Turow
Why do the truly dedicated working stiffs get endlessly shifted around while the corporate boobs obsessed with meaningless minutiae secure upper-management? This is the esoteric question posed amusingly by Mike Judge in his sly new comedy, Office Space which is also his writing and directing debut.
Peter (Swingers' Jay Livingston) is another corporate drone on the brink of an identity crisis, brought about by his thankless job at a computer firm upgrading the Y2K bug. Irritated by the lack of recognition he and his peers receive, his life comes to a standstill.
While engaged in an occupational hypno-therapy session, Peter's therapist has a heart attack in the depths of his hypnosis. This totally changes Peter's perspective on things making him realize his priorities, with work falling to the bottom of the list.
This new found lease on life spurs him to do the things he never dreamed of before not working weekends, wearing sandals and jeans to the office and asking out Joanna, played unremarkably by Jennifer Aniston, the foxy waitress he had designs on before but was too timid to approach.
Judge, however, only uses this story line as a premise a clothes-line on which he hangs a load of gags which dissect the monotony of the corporate grind. He humourously picks apart the mundane details every stuffed shirt endures the receptionist repeating the same robotic greeting, photo-copiers which work more effectively as a shredder and the lane of traffic which immediately comes to a standstill upon your entry.
Office Space has a lot in common with Judge's former creations, Beavis and Butt-head and the dim-bulb yokels of King of the Hill. If you look past their animated facades, the central characters of stoner metal-heads and beer swilling good ol' boys seem initially to be the object of ridicule. Closer inspection reveals those who are their superiors are in fact, even more clueless. Peter is the anti-hero of Office Space, one who makes us see the inadequacies of the world by not being so perfect himself.
However, this is also where the film runs into trouble. Livingston has difficulty exuding the kind of charisma necessary for the audience to fully sympathize with his character's slacker transformation. He's just going through the paces. Some of the antics he initiates seem to happen just because they're in the script, not because they serve any real purpose, or are even funny at all. Who would go fishing then bring the fish to the office to gut?
Luckily, the supporting cast in the movie is strong enough to make up for Livingstone's weaknesses. Gary Cole, probably best remembered as the dad in the Brady Bunch movies, is a riot as Peter's supervisor. Using "It would be great if...," consistently as a euphemism for "Do it or else," his tight-ass character is at once believable and hysterical.
David Herman is also hilarious as Michael Bolton (no relation), a gangsta rap obsessed programmer who's a dead ringer for Bill Gates. Many jokes stem from the fact he shares his moniker with the adult contemporary crooner, but tends to be funnier than the obviousness of the gag suggests.
Judge's traditional subversive satire may have to wait a while before fully realized in live action, but judging from Office Space, he's definitely headed in the right direction.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999