Rated R - Running time: 1:29 - Released 2/19/99

From Mike Judge, creator of TV cartoon shows Beavis And Butt-Head and King Of The Hill, comes Office Space, a wry look at the mind-numbing existence of working for a large computer software company. Filled with funny caricatures and great lines, Office Space is Judge's first try at directing live-action, and is based on an animated short of the same name from 1991.

The main character of the film is Peter Gibbons, played by Ron Livingston (TV's That's Life). Peter, who is growing increasingly restless in his job at Initech, is beginning to think he's just not cut out for cubicle life. Between the incessant chirp of the receptionist in the next cube whose only answer is a perky "just a moment," to the fake friendship of his immediate superior, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole), who seems to have no other task besides good-naturedly hassling people, the job is seriously hampering Peter's comfort zone. He talks to his friends, Michael Bolton (David Herman), whose own job frustration is coupled with the fact that he must live with the name of a famous singer whose music he can't stand, and Samir (Ajay Naidu), whose last name is apparently unpronounceable to anyone born in this country. The guys commiserate about everything from Lumbergh asking them to work on weekends to the printer that never works properly, but Michael and Samir seem to think that job security is the one advantage to Initech. Of course, Peter wonders, what good is job security if you hate your job?

When rumors start to travel about downsizing, Peter gets even more stressed, so he sees a hypnotist who claims he can remove tension. Though the session proves unhealthy for the doctor, Peter gets a great deal of good out of it: He just stops caring. When he doesn't feel like going to work, he doesn't go. When he does go, he disregards anything said to him by Lumbergh, and even dismantles his own cubicle so he can see out the windows. But rather than getting him fired, this behavior seems to impress the consultants hired by Initech to do the company's housecleaning. While his friends' jobs are put on the chopping block, Peter gets a raise and a promotion. Also impressed by Peter's newfound calm is the waitress at the diner next door, Joanne (Jennifer Aniston). Inspired by him, she is finally able to tell her annoying boss where to go, and this leads her to make her own unexpected career move.

Though Office Space isn't exactly loaded with life lessons, its thin plot is bolstered a great deal by its varied cast of characters. Most are two-dimensional, like all of the "actors" in Judge's cartoon shows, but they also share another trait with that cel-bound crowd: They are funny. Beyond the four people who have most of the screen time, there are also numerous supporting players. There's ultra-geek Milton (NewsRadio's Stephen Root), who is not only cursed with acne and thick glasses, but treated like a doormat by everyone in the company. There's Lawrence (Diedrich Bader of The Drew Carey Show), Peter's friendly but eavesdropping neighbor, who is envied for his "real job" as a construction worker. And there is Lumbergh, the smooth-talking manager, always with coffee cup in hand, who starts all his gentle admonishments with "Yeah," and ends them with "mmm-kay?"

Writer/director/producer Judge, who started life in Ecuador, has a talent for capturing the quirks of the American way of life with his various series. Office Space is another example. Judge's plots may be a bit shallow, but his characters, and the things they say, are genuinely funny. ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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