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OFFICE SPACE

1999, dir. Mike Judge
89 min. Rated R.
Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Stephen Root, Gary Cole.

Review by Noel Wood

I work in a cubicle farm. In fact, I'm sitting in one of these cold, uninviting grey dwellings as we speak typing this very sentence. When I first saw OFFICE SPACE three and a half years ago, I was still in a retail environment and months away from my eventual cube-dwelling nature. You'd think seeing the film would have kept me away, but I guess I'm just a masochist. Well, at least I get to work on my website at this job (for potential readers that may be in a position of authority at my place of business, I assure you that I only work on it during my lunch breaks. Scouts honor.)

    

In fact, I really wasn't planning on writing anything at all today. At the last minute, though, I decided to forgo my usual lunch destination and grabbed some takeout from a restaurant in the building and eat it in my cubicle. And I really just wanted to share the experience of the Mojo Pork sandwich I just ate. Ever since I killed off my weblog I have nowhere else to deliver my random thoughts, so I figured I'd whip up an article just to find a spot to run my mouth about it. I was wading with trepidation when I first saw the sandwich, as it looked like it might be a little skimpy on the filling and rather unfulfilling for the 7 dollars I paid for it. However, I was pleasantly suprised to find it rather tasty. The pork was delicious, the sauce was just tangy enough, and it had just the right levels of pickles and lettuce to really tie it all together. On top of that, the French Liberty Fries served on the side were nicely seasoned and complimented the sandwich well. You see, when you work in a cubicle, even the simplest pleasures amuse you. That's why I spend hours on end fumbling through the most mindless websites ever devised by man. That's why I actually took the time to write the paragraph you're currently reading, and I'm still wondering why I wrote it too.

    

But anyone who has ever worked in a cube farm knows what I mean. Hell, this isn't even my first job like this -- when I was sixteen years old, I hawked newspapers over the telephone in a cube farm, so you'd think I'da known better. Mike Judge must know all too well what it's like to work in this environment as well, because his 1999 comedy OFFICE SPACE captures the experience like nobody's business.

The office life gets plenty of media devoted to it. There's a reason why Dilbert comic strips get plastered all over the building I work in. There's a reason why The Drew Carey Show has been so popular for so long. Tons of people can identify with the lifestyle, and there's just so much stuff to parody. OFFICE SPACE nails the parody of office life right on the head, but more importantly, it doesn't stop there. On top of that, there's tons of social satire, some intriguing and identifiable characters, and tons of references to other elements of pop culture.

    

The movie stars Ron Livingston as Peter Gibbons. You may remember Ron as the friend who got the Goofy callback from SWINGERS. Like you'd expect, he's a cube dweller that's on the brink of insanity. His boss grates on his nerves, he's tired of being micromanaged, and he seems to have an idea that his girlfriend is cheating on him. And of course, there's the littler annoyances in his office as well, that really seem to put the exclamation point on his mood: The high-pitched receptionist, the static electricity shocks, and of course, the accursed copy machine that seems to be man's natural enemy. One night, though, an experience with a hypnotist leaves him feeling a little more aloof and less concerned with those things. He starts to experience his work environment with a new attitude, and as a result, is rewarded for what others feel he should be punished for.

    

His coworkers are a colorful bunch, too. His boss, Lumbergh, is just the kind of guy you hate: condescending and self-important, always chugging away at a cup of coffee (I actually was shocked at how identical his character was to one of my supervisors at the Newspaper job.) There's Milton, who is a mumbling time bomb of a man who keeps getting humiliated and pushed into corners...literally. There's Tom, an older, high-strung employee who has some "big ideas". And of course, there's Samir and Michael Bolton (yes, it's part of the joke), his two closest friends, who assist Peter in a scam to rip off the company.

The parody doesn't just stop in the office, of course. Peter meets Joanna, played by Jennifer Aniston, who works across the street at a trendy restaurant. Sure, You may recognize it as a nearly perfect clone of a TGI Friday's/Applebees/Houlihan's/Chili's type place, but this place is called Chachki's, where the higher-ups require their employees to wear at least 15 pieces of "flair".

    

There's so much to the film that folks can identify with. Sure, the style of it is a comedy that almost feels like it's a cartoon (Mike Judge makes a nice transition from animation to live action here) , but in a way, it's damn realistic. Even down to Peter's generic suburban apartment. There's no attempt to gloss it up and give it character, this is exactly the place that a Peter Gibbons would live and occasionally hang out and drink beer with his blue-collar neighbor Lawrence. One of the funniest scens in the film is the opening sequence, in which Michael, Peter, and Samir are individually making their way into work. While Samir is virtually having an aneuryism, and Peter is watching old men on walkers pass him, Michael Bolton is thuggin' out to same Gangsta rap, but locks his door and turns it down when a black man strolls by.

The film is loosely based on some of Mike Judge's earlier, pre-Beavis and Butthead animation, particularly the "Milton" shorts from Saturday Night Live. Of course, there's a lot of expansion on the theme, but some of Milton's actions are taken directly from the shorts.

    

I could really go on all day talking about specific things that make this movie rule, but I'll let you Judge (no pun intended). Even if you've never worked in an office scenario, there's plenty of laughs. Mike Judge doesn't try to be pretentious or make any statements, but wha the does is put together a damn funny comedy that is one of the most rewatchable things I've ever seen. Make sure you look for Mike Judge in two seperate cameo roles, one of which is quite the hilarious moment.

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