Every now and then, a movie will come out that will just seem to speak to a generation of kids at that time. Today’s movie is definitely one of those movies. In 1999, a lot of people my age were just getting out of college or starting jobs in order to pay bills and rent so a movie showcasing the daily grind that everyone deals with really appealed to a lot of people, especially my friends. So let’s dive right into today’s movie, Office Space.
The plot: Peter Gibbons works for a programming company called Initech but after a lousy start to his morning, where two of his bosses (Bill Lumbergh and Dom Portwood) harass him over his forgetting to use a cover sheet with his TPS reports, he decides to go out for coffee with his friends Michael Bolton and Samir Nagheenanajar. While sitting at the restaurant complaining about their jobs, Peter notices a waitress that he likes and the guys tell him he should ask her out but Peter says he can’t because he is trying to work things out with his girlfriend Anne and then mentions that he won’t be able to play poker with the guys on Friday because he is going with Anne to see an occupational hypnotherapist. As they are returning to work, they see their co-worker Tom Smykowski rushing towards them telling them that their is a staff meeting and that Initech is bringing in consultants to help downsize them. As Tom continues to talk about his concerns, he brings up a topic of what he would do with a million dollars and the others start talking about what they would do with a million dollars. When he gets home, his neighbor Lawrence comes over to talk to him and as they discuss the day, Peter tells him he feels like Lumbergh is going to have him work on Saturday and Lawrence tells him to just leave early on Friday to avoid Lumbergh asking him. On Friday, after Lumbergh introduces everyone to Bob Slydell, a consultant, Peter gives Lawrence’s idea a try but ends up running into Lumbergh, who tells him to come in on Saturday and Sunday. That night, Peter is talking to the hypnotherapist, Dr. Swanson, about his job and Dr. Swanson starts to put Peter in a hypnotic state in order to help him relax but as he is doing this, Dr. Swanson ends up dying of a heart attack, leaving Peter in his relaxed state. With his new state of mind, Peter decides to stay in bad on Saturday, receiving numerous calls from Lumbergh about his not being at work as well as a call from Anne, who he hangs up on only for her to call back and break up with him as she admits she was cheating on him. On Monday, another consultant, Bob Porter, is introduced to the company while Tom and Michael are commenting about Peter not coming in over the weekend and not being there now. At that moment, Peter goes to Chotchkie’s and invites Joanna, the waitress he likes, out to lunch at Flingers, the restaurant next door. When Joanne arrives there, Peter and her talk about their various jobs and then Peter invites her to dinner and then invites her over to watch Kung Fu at his place. Back at Initech, the two Bobs begin interviewing the workers at the company and makes notes on who they feel should stay employed. Peter shows up and Michael asks him where he has been and reminds him of the meeting with the Bobs and tries to get Peter to postpone it but Peter goes on in to meet with them. During the meeting, Peter basically admits that he does next to nothing at work and comments about his having eight bosses and his only real motivation is to do enough work to not get fired or be bothered by his bosses. When the Bobs have a meeting with Lumbergh and Dom about the people they plan on firing, and bring up Milton, who they learned had been let go five years ago but was still receiving a paycheck due to a payroll error so the fixed the error in the hopes that he would just quietly leave on his own. When they bring up Peter’s name and say they want to promote him, Lumbergh starts to disagree with them but they overrule him. As the days go by, Peter learns that he is going to be promoted but his friends are going to be let go. He talks with Michael after work and asks him about a virus that he had created which will be able to siphon a fraction of a cent out of the various bank’s transactions, which they can put into an account and let it grow for a few years and after bringing Samir in on the plan, they decide to install it. After installing the virus the next day, they learn that Tom had tried to kill himself when he learned he was being let go but changed his mind at the last minute only to get hit by a drunk driver and is now receiving a seven figure settlement. As they leave work for the last time, Peter tells them that he stole something as a gift for them and takes them out to a field, where they proceed to destroy a copier/printer that had constantly given them problems. The next day, Peter is taking Joanna to a barbecue that Tom is throwing and ends up telling her about their plan. During the barbecue, Peter learns that Joanna had previously slept with a Lumbergh from work and immediately thinks it was his boss. As they are leaving, they get into an argument about everything and she breaks up with him. On Monday, Peter checks the account and discovers that it has stolen over $300,000 in a few days and when he shows this to Michael and Samir, Michael thinks he misplaced a decimal point in the program. After debating with himself about what to do, Peter decides to take the fall for the missing money, as he was the one to get the others involved. He goes to see Joanna and learns that she had been fired from Chotchkie’s after she flipped off her boss and now works at Flingers. He apologizes for the argument, since he learned the Lumbergh she slept with was a different person than his boss, and tells her he is going to come clean about the money and she agrees to give them another chance. Peter places the money and his confession into an envelope and slides it under Lumbergh’s door, then briefly tries to get it back but is unable to reach it. The next day, Milton goes to see Lumbergh about his missing paychecks and when Lumbergh’s secretary leaves, he walks into the office, intent on getting his red Swingline stapler back from Lumbergh. When Peter arrives at Initech, he finds the building on fire and as he looks around, he notices Milton staring at the fire before walking away and, realizing Milton finally followed through on his threat to burn the place down, laughs as he realizes that his problems were solved. Some time later, Peter is now working construction with Lawrence and as they are clearing out the debris from the Initech building, Lawrence finds the Milton’s burned stapler and Peter grabs it, intending to send it to Milton. Amir and Michael drive up and talk with Peter, saying they can get him a job at Initrode with them but Peter says he is happy where he is. Meanwhile, Milton is lounging on the beach at a Mexican resort and when he gets the wrong drink and the waiter ignores him, he threatens to have the place shut down and go to a competitor.
Office Space was well received by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, ” Mike Judge lampoons the office grind with its inspired mix of sharp dialogue and witty one-liners.” After the movie came out on video, Swingline began receiving calls for the red Swingline stapler that was used in the movie, but they did not have a red model available at the time so they soon started selling one, resulting in an increase in sales due to the free marketing from the movie. The movie was based off of the Milton cartoon shorts that Mike Judge did for SNL and Liquid Television, though Milton played a smaller role in the actual movie. Mike Judge blamed to ad campaign for the poor box office performance, as it only made a little over $12 million off of a $10 million budget, and Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Tom Rothman conceded that the marketing campaign did not work and said, “Office Space isn’t like American Pie. It doesn’t have the kind of jokes you put in a 15-second television spot of somebody getting hit on the head with a frying pan. It’s sly. And let me tell you, sly is hard to sell” Despite the poor box office showing, the movie became a cult classic when it was released to video, becoming one of Fox’s top selling videos in 1999.
This is a fantastic comedy to watch. The acting was great, with Rob Livingston (Peter) and Gary Cole (Lumbergh) doing great jobs in their roles. Stephen Root was fantastic as Milton, with his mumbling, stuttering speech patterns doing a good job of matching how Mike Judge had done in the animated shorts. The story was a bit simplistic but the dialogue and writing showed that you didn’t need an elaborate plot in order to make an effective comedy. The scenes with Milton were some of my favorites, as he was constantly forced to move or relocate his office throughout the movie as Lumbergh tries to force him to leave. My favorite was the scene with the birthday cake, as he initially had a piece of cake but was told to pass it to someone else and at the end, everyone had some cake but him. Definitely a comedy that was ahead of it’s time and a great comedy to watch that anyone can relate too, no matter which profession you work in.
Rating: 5 out of 5