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OFFICE SPACE
Special Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Stephen Root, Gary Cole
Director:  Mike Judge
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85.1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  90 Minutes
Release Date:  November 1, 2005

"That...is the last straw."

Film **

The best way to describe Office Space is like a sprinter running a marathon.  It gets off the blocks quickly and in great fashion, but by halfway through, it’s completely spent, with nothing left to go the rest of the distance.

For about the first 45 minutes, the movie is as funny and as biting as anything you could hope to see…especially if you are, or have been, a cubicle dweller in your career.  All the hells of office life are categorized and documented for your amusement and approval.  The stop-and-go drive to work, as our hero, Peter (Livingston) watches helplessly as an elderly man with a walker moves faster than him.  The boss, played to comic perfection by Gary Cole.  The fax machine that jams.  The pitiful, mumbling Milton (Root), who constantly has to move his desk and takes simple pleasures in his radio and his good stapler.  The “consultants” who come in and interview all workers one by one, which of course, can only mean another downsizing.

It’s a world many of us know well.  It’s hysterical, if you can step outside it and see it for what it is, but it’s not quite so funny to be a pawn in it.  When Peter makes the simple and easily correctable mistake of using the wrong cover sheet for a report, he has to hear about it one at a time from no less than eight supervisors.  “Didn’t you get the memo?” they ask.  (One of the big differences between our world and the management world is that they view memos as some kind of magical spell…issue one, and there should be no more problem.)  Yes, he got the memo, he assures them.  They want him to have another.  Like the first one didn’t take.

Comes time for the downsizing, and some mayhem ensues.  Turns out, Milton had been fired long ago, but nobody told him, and a glitch in accounting caused him to keep getting his paycheck.  That’s fixed now, they assure the managers.  Which is to say, they didn’t tell Milton he was fired, but they corrected the payroll problem so that he wouldn’t get another check.  The rest should work itself out.

Peter laments his frustrating, dead end existence.  “What if we’re still here when we’re fifty?” he ponders.  “I’d love to have that kind of job security,” a co-worker responds.

Then something happens.  In a hypnotherapy session, Peter is put under and told to be completely relaxed about everything concerning his job until the doctor snaps his fingers.  Then the doctor has a heart attack and dies on the spot, never releasing Peter from his hypnosis.  Peter is now a changed man.  He shows up for work when and if he feels like it.  He no longer dresses up.  He ignores his smarmy boss.  He’s even completely honest with the consultants about how little he cares about his job.  And they immediately sense that he’s upper management material.

This is a terrific premise, but that really is about as far as it goes.  Writer/director Mike Judge simply seemed to run out of ideas at that point, and starts taking the story into different and unsatisfying directions.  At one point, the whole hypnosis premise is simply abandoned without explanation.  Peter decides to help his two friends, who were downsized, get revenge on the company by implementing a virus program.  This program will take the fractions of pennies that are rounded on every financial transaction and place them into an account set up for them.  “Like in Superman III”, is the line that gets repeated over and over, as though Judge figured the best way to deal with lack of originality is to just be frank about it.  And the scheme goes wrong, leading to the usual “what do we do now” scene, that happens to be the longest and most drawn out of its kind that I’ve ever viewed.

To make matters worse, Judge unnecessarily introduces a love story element, with Jennifer Anniston playing the object of Peter’s affections in a thankless role.  They’re drawn together by a mutual love of the television show “Kung Fu”.  There’s even the old standby about whether she might have slept with his boss somewhere in her distant past, and the argument that ensues, leading to the ever popular stop-the-car-and-let-me-out scene.  Sort of like Chasing Amy, except we don’t care whether or not they end up together.

Oh, and the resolution to the embezzling scheme that went wrong?  Very weak, and very cheaply done.  I get the feeling by that point, Mike Judge was as anxious to get out of there as we were.

Video ***

A solid anamorphic transfer from Fox....there’s not a particularly strong color scheme at work here, but images are sharp and well defined, with no grain or artifacts.  A few outdoor scenes are particularly strong in picture quality. 

Audio ***

The 5.1 soundtrack is also done well, with a few good and appropriately placed rap songs along the way, and especially makes good in some of the chaotic office scenes where every annoying sound from every corner of the room is mixed together in gleeful cacophony.

Features **

Not much of a special edition...there's a new retrospective with Mike Judge, 8 deleted scenes, the trailer and some DVD ROM content.

Summary:

Office Space could have been one of the great comedies of the 90’s, if it had only been able to maintain the momentum it started out with.  It might have served Mike Judge better to have held on to his concept a little while longer until he had some more original and well defined ideas for where to take the story once he established his characters and the mood.  As it stands now, the movie simply falls into borrowed ideas and poorly resolved scenarios, and leaves you with nothing in the second half but the memories of how hard you laughed during the first half.

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