_Beavis_and_Butt-Head_, _King_of_the_Hill_. Two of the most successful
animated television series in recent years--and two of the most annoying
creations to ever hit the tube, if you ask me. So I was surprised to find
myself laughing through much of the offbeat workplace comedy
_Office_Space_, the live-action directorial debut of those series'
creator, Mike Judge.
When we first meet Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), he is stuck in the
circle of hell known as morning rush hour trafic. But this is nothing
compared to the next circle that awaits Peter and his also-traffic-jammed
friends Samir (Ajay Naidu) and Michael Bolton (David Herman) every single
day as office dronces for the Initech Corporation. As we see Peter being
harrassed by his numerous higher-ups about a memo regarding report cover
sheets and Michael doing battle with the temperamental office fax and
anyone who mentions a certain identically-named singer, Judge's point is
abundantly clear: work sucks, as goes the film's tagline.
Judge's recreation of soul-deadening busy work is so painfully dead-on
hilarious that it wouldn't really matter if there were much of a plot--and
there really isn't much of one. Fed up with his unfulfilling,
underappreciated efforts and his smarmy, condescending boss Bill Lumbergh
(Gary Cole), Peter decides to rebel, and he and the about-to-be-laid-off
Samir and Michael join forces in an elaborate scheme to fleece the
corporation. While their scheming does pave the way for some very
effective, very funny set pieces (one gangland-style "beating" is a
showstopper), it doesn't have much of a payoff. In fact, perhaps
_Office_Space_'s weakest element is its rather flat conclusion, which
doesn't fulfill the buildup of what preceded it.
Nonetheless, Judge has come up with a wry, perceptive, always-amusing
comedy, highlighted by some memorable characters, chief among them the
gangsta-rap-loving Michael Bolton; the ever-unctuous Lumbergh; and Milton
(Stephen Root), a perpetually stepped-on (or, rather, completely ignored)
soft-spoken co-worker. But it's Livingston who holds the film together.
Peter, while the main character, may not be the showiest role in the film,
but Livingston's low-key, self-effacing attitude works in creating a
likable character--and, in turn, an involving film.