Office Space

In honor of costar Ajay Naidu’s birthday, I thought I’d repost a piece on Mike Judge’s brilliant Office Space, which saw special edition re-release on DVD at the tail end of 2005, about nine months before 20th Century Fox would dump Judge's latest film, Idiocracy, like a bullet-riddled corpse from fast-moving van.

Cast one’s mind back, though. Mmmm, yeah… 1999 was a special year for cinema. There was just something in the pre-millennial air, and the number of achingly memorable releases from that year — from The Insider, American Beauty, Election and The Sixth Sense to Fight Club, The Blair Witch Project, The Straight Story and Magnolia — will forever denote it as a true heavyweight’s period. An utter gem that slipped under the radar, however, was Beavis & Butt-head creator Judge’s live action directorial debut. Criminally underrated upon its initial theatrical release, Office Space went on to become a word-of-mouth smash, particularly on home video.

The story, of course, centers on Peter Gibbons (a fantastic Ron Livingston, above left), a tech industry corporate drone sick and tired of his job at a computer software firm that serves as a stand-in for every faceless white collar workplace in America. His fellow partners-in-drudgery include friends Michael Bolton (David Herman, above middle) and Samir Nagheenanajar (the aforementioned Naidu, above right), and they all hate their boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole, friggin’ brilliant), whose smarmy sense of detached entitlement comes across in everything from his used Porsche to his prodding directives, all issued in a wheedling monotone. Dumped by his girlfriend after a trip to the hypno-therapist, Peter meets a nice new girl, waitress Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), and finds happiness in a complete detachment from work, even as corporate overseers circle with plans for layoffs. From there, Peter, Michael and Samir hatch and enact a brazenly simple plot to skim compounded interest from company bank transactions as a means of striking back at the head-patting hand that has for so long held them down.

The dialogue is rich, the details spot-on and the laugh-out-loud factor as high as in just about any comedy of the past decade. For all its surface thrill, though, Office Space isn’t a comedy just about the regurgitation of accumulated mundanities, it’s a comedy about authority and the searing resentment that its lazy application engenders (think Lumbergh’s passive-aggressive “yeeeeaaaaaah,” all translated, really, as “no”). Livingston is pitch-perfect as Peter, as are Herman, Naidu and a fine assortment of bit players, including Diedrich Bader, John C. McGinley, Richard Riehle, Orlando Jones and, of course, Stephen Root as the mumbling, thick-spectacled Milton.

Office Space’s zeitgeist-capturing brilliance as a film, though, doesn’t give it automatic sacred cow status on DVD, and truth be told this "special edition with flair" disappoints a bit. There's a collection of eight deleted scenes; mostly short bits and ends from sequences already in the movie, these include an extended conversation between Peter and Michael prior to his first meeting with the Bobs, and two snippets that reveal the fate of Lumbergh and introduce a construction foreman doppelganger, the latter of which was smartly excised. A half-hour retrospective includes interviews with Judge that highlight his observational prowess, as well as newer material with all the other primary cast members (yes, including Aniston). This stuff is great, but it’s all presented in such choppy fashion that, while often amusing, it doesn’t shine as much light on the creative process as possible. If Giant magazine can gather most of the cast for an extensive retrospective interview, as they did earlier this year, why can’t Fox do the same for this DVD?

Other than the theatrical trailer and DVD-ROM content, too, that’s it as far as the extras. Why announced plans for other supplemental material — including an audio commentary track from Judge, and the Saturday Night Live animated shorts that first introduced the character of Milton — were scrapped is anyone’s guess, but one needn’t have been directly anticipating their inclusion to feel like something’s missing from this reunion. It summons to mind Judge’s in-character admonition as Joanna’s boss: “If you wanna be known as someone who’s OK with just the bare minimum, I suppose that’s fine…” A (Movie) C+ (Disc)


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  • 2/23/2007 12:11 PM TooMany40ozs. wrote:
    Mmmmm... yeah, OFFICE SPACE is just brilliant. It's the definitive workplace comedy, and a total viral success. I can't think of any more exclusively viewer-recommended movie of the past decade. I'd love to see a sequel in about 10 more years.
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