- Rated R
- Buy the BD
Reviewed by David Medsker
very decade has its rental success story. The first good example of a movie coming to life in the video store is James Cameron's "The Terminator" 1984, which showed the studios just how powerful a medium video could be. Ten years later, "The Shawshank Redemption" pulled a similar stunt. The movie was abysmally marketed, something that even the scores of praise and a bevy of Oscar nominations couldn't overcome. (Just think back to the Best Picture nominees that year: "The Shawshank Redemption." "Pulp Fiction." "Quiz Show." "Four Weddings and a Funeral." "Forrest Gump." That was also the year that "Hoop Dreams" came out. It may be years before we see a list of Best Picture nominees that good again.) Then, surprising everyone, "Shawshank" exploded on video, and is now widely regarded as one of the best movies of all time.
Which brings us to the example for the video breakout of the new millennium, "Office Space." In retrospect, it should come as no surprise that 20th Century Fox had no idea what to do with Mike Judge's dry comedy about the preposterous inner workings of a faceless tech company. After all, it's a live action comedy from a guy who's best known for two animated halfwits and another animated show about a very square Texan. Even worse, his movie was rated R, meaning that the teenage audience that gobbled up his TV fare would be shut out at the box office. The critics were indifferent, and it made a measly $10 million. Fox then shuttled it off to video, where it promptly broke every video record in Fox history. In fact, Fox won't even tell you which classic movies "Office Space" has outsold. One can only hope that all involved with the marketing of this movie were fired the second it crept into Fox's top 20.
Set in a nameless city in Texas, "Office Space" is about Peter Gibbons, a programming drone at Initech who utterly hates his existence. He has an epiphany one night while undergoing hypnosis with a date doctor, and decides to eliminate all the stress that his life causes him, starting with Initech. He stops taking the incessant calls from his boss Bill Lumbergh (brilliantly underplayed by Gary Cole) to work on weekends. In fact, he barely can be bothered to come to work at all. When Initech brings in two efficiency experts (both named Bob), his breeziness impresses them both so much that they recommend to Lumbergh that Peter be promoted. Seeing the hypocrisy in this, Peter talks his programmer friends Samir (Ajay Naidu) and Michael Bolton (David Herman), who are both about to get the axe, into getting even.
Nothing that you just read explains the movie's popularity. "Office Space" is not the instant classic that it is because of its plot. The plot is really just a means to getting to know one seriously disturbed, and very funny, group of people. Besides Lumbergh, there's Tom, a mid-level cost center who knows he has no purpose whatsoever. There's Brian, the waiter at the local watering hole who's way too into his job. There's Lawrence (Diedrich Bader), Peter's next-door neighbor who screams through the wall whenever something good is on TV. But most importantly, there's Milton (Stephen Root), who was actually fired years ago, but continues to come to work because a glitch in the payroll system keeps sending him checks. And we haven't even gotten to the "O" face, TPS reports, or someone having a case of the Mondays.
The beauty of "Office Space" is its love for the mundane, and how people will go to sad, sad lengths to eradicate it. Peter, Samir and Michael take out their frustration on a printer in a manner that would make Scorsese beam with pride. Peter is reprimanded, by two of his eight bosses, for not putting a cover sheet on a TPS report. (His punishment: another copy of the memo stating that TPS reports must have cover sheets, even though Peter made it clear that he already has the memo.) Tom is sky high about his idea for what would in fact be the worst board game ever made.
The reason "Office Space" resonates with so many people is because a large percentage of the working class do not love what they do. Our lives are mired in the kind of banality that Judge both celebrates and subverts. There are no real heroes or villains in the movie, not even the lumbering Lumbergh. There are just people, who can be good or bad, but are usually just annoying or dull. Such is life, which goes a long way to explain the success of "Office Space."
Special Edition with Flair Blu-Ray Review:
To say that the Blu-ray release of "Office Space" is a disappointment would be a major understatement. Apart from a 26-minute retrospective on the film ("Out of the Office"), a meager selection of deleted scenes, a pop-up trivia track, and some interactive games, this is by far one of the worst special editions ever produced. There are no audio commentaries with the cast and crew, no outtakes, or anything that would make the Blu-ray edition feel special at all. Fox really dropped the ball on this one, especially for a title that deserves a place in every movie lover's collection.