Office Space

on February 19, 1999 by Wade Major
   The all-American workplace is the target of some viciously wry humor in the hilarious "Office Space," the live-action directing/writing debut of "Beavis and Butthead" and "King of the Hill" creator Mike Judge.
   Based on another of Judge's animated creations--the "Milton" series of animated shorts--"Office Space" focuses on office drone Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), a programmer whose daily slog to and from his austere high-tech employer, Initech Corp., has him on a fast track to lithium. Until, that is, an epiphanous hypnotherapy session brings him to the bright conclusion that he'll be happy if he just doesn't care anymore. In fact, he doesn't even care enough to make the effort to quit. He'll just "stop going." As the fates would have it, this new laid-back attitude is just what a pair of downsizing consultants read as "middle-management potential," recommending Peter for a promotion, even while his friends Samir (Ajay Naidu) and Michael (David Herman) are laid off.
   At this point, the film takes a bit of an unorthodox twist, with Peter, Michael and Samir joining forces to bilk the company of hundreds of thousands of dollars through the introduction of a theoretically untraceable computer virus. Fortunately, Judge doesn't let the shift derail his satire, launching zesty barbs at corporate culture right up until the blissfully bitter, if predictable, finale.
   Given his past work, it's fairly obvious that Judge views the rites and rituals of the modern world with gleeful contempt, never missing a chance to savage the behavioral boxes into which people contentedly place themselves. But even by his own standards, "Office Space" is ruthlessly funny stuff, so relentlessly acerbic that it makes "Dilbert" seem downright reverential by comparison.
   Supporting turns of note include Jennifer Aniston as Peter's waitress girlfriend, Gary Cole as his maddeningly even-tempered boss, Diedrich Bader as a beer-swilling neighbor and Stephen Root in a brilliant, scene-stealing turn as the sociopathically nerdy Milton, for whom the original shorts were named. Starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu, Diedrich Bader, Stephen Root and Gary Cole. Directed and written by Mike Judge. Produced by Michael Rotenberg and Daniel Rappaport. A Fox release. Comedy. Rated R for language and brief sexuality. Running time: 89 min
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