Office Space
directed by Mike Judge
(20th Century Fox, 1999)

Peter Gibbons is an Initech software engineer in love with a Chotchkie's waitress named Joanna. Milton Waddams is an Initech cubicle worker in love with his stapler. Bill Lumbergh is an Initech supervisor in love with downsizing. Brian is a Chotchkie's waiter in love with his uniform. And Michael Bolton is an Initech engineer who'd love to sing in a rap band.

Now with all this romance in the air, you might think Office Space was some kind of love story. But it's not. It's actually a hate story. It's a story about people who hate their jobs, hate their situations, hate their lives, hate just about everything except each other, yet feel powerless to do anything about it.


One day, Peter, Michael and Milton discover that their worst fear has been realized: Initech is downsizing, and all of them have to essentially re-apply for their jobs.

Peter (Ron Livingston) makes the cut, but Michael (David Herman) and their friend, Samir (Ajay Naidu), don't. Milton (Stephen Root), it turns out, was fired five years earlier. The firm had just forgotten to mention it.

That might be the end of Office Space if it weren't for a long-dormant idea of Michael's to infect Initech's mainframe with a virus that skims fractions of cents from thousands of fund transfers around the world and puts them into an account that Michael, Peter and Samir can tap into. And that might have been the end of Initech if the virus hadn't worked much better and faster than its maker had intended it to.

Office Space is a funny movie laced with funny scenes and funny characters. Root does a good job of bringing office nerd Milton Waddams to life, and Herman does a rap-to-the-radio-in-traffic bit that makes you think Office Space could be the sleeper of the year.

But it's not. Because somewhere along the way, writer-director Mike Beavis and Butthead Judge took a wrong turn, or possibly a few wrong turns.

Part of the problem was involving Peter with Chotchkie's waitress Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), who is also on the verge of being fired -- for not having enough buttons on her uniform. It's an OK gag, but Judge dwells on it too much, and eventually it collapses, unable to sustain the burden placed on it.

Worse yet, when she does get the ax, it's for giving the boss the finger. This is originality? So it is with much of Office Space. Funny gags give out, delightful ironies turn sour and sap replaces wit as the plot ultimately winds down. The last laugh -- and it's a good one -- is on Initech, but by then it's too late. Office Space has squandered the great potential with which it began.

More's the pity. Corporate America -- as Dilbert so ably demonstrates on a daily basis -- is a plum ripe for plucking. It's just sad to see good fruit wither on the vine.

[ by Miles O'Dometer ]

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