Office Space - * * *

It was only a matter of time before a Dilbert-esque office comedy hit the screens. However, rather than coming from Dilbert creator Scott Adams, Office Space is instead based on the work of another animator, Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill. In his live-action directoral debut, Judge aptly spoofs corporate culture. The story is certainly not very involved, but there is plenty of truth and humor to fill the gaps.

Peter (Ron Livingston) is a programmer working at the Initech corporation. Every day in his mundane life is worse than the one before…in other words, every day is the worst day in his entire life. He’s stuck in a boring job with eight different supervisors, all obsessed with administrative trivialities. He’s smitten with Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), a local waitress, but hasn’t the guts to even introduce himself. Everything has simply made him a complete, nervous wreck.

But all of that changes when, after an unintentionally over-effective visit to a hypnotherapist, Peter loses all of his inhibitions. He realizes his lifelong dream: to do absolutely nothing. He begins to blatantly disregard the nonsensical instructions of his boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole), doing whatever he feels like.

Peter’s friends and co-workers, Samir (Ajay Naidu) and Michael Bolton (David Herman)…no, not that Michael Bolton, are perplexed by their friend’s sudden change in attitude. But, they have larger things to worry about: rumors about that Initech is about to begin downsizing…

As bleak as much of this sounds, let me assure you that Office Space is a comedy, and quite a funny one. Although it shares the same absurdist office humor of the Dilbert comic strip, Office Space is actually based loosely on the series of Milton cartoons which aired on Saturday Night Life. Each mundane detail, taken by itself, seems completely, regretably, plausible. Yet, when combined into a whole, the picture which results is absolutely surreal.

Ron Livingston tackles his role straight-faced, and becomes much funnier because of it. His character isn’t simply being a clown lampooning around the office, but rather seems possessed by a zen-like clarity. He is operating on a higher plane, where everything suddenly makes sense, and from this vantage point, he allows the audience to smirk at the absurdities of life.

Anyone who has had to deal with the inefficiencies of corporate bureaucracy, or who has ever been frustrated with the technology of modern life, will recognize many of the characters and situations in the film. In fact, in addition to being wildly humorous, the film may actually prove to be cathartic.

The animated roots of Office Space show in the film’s lack of complexity. Most of the characters in the film can be quickly summarized by a particular personality quirk. One employee, Milton (Stephen Root), is practically a flesh-and-blood cartoon. However, despite their simple nature, the characters still manage to be surprisingly funny.

It’s not required to have a corporate background to enjoy this film (though the situations may seem exceedingly far-fetched if you are unfamiliar with just how close to reality they really are). The film is flimsy and absurd, but also very funny.

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