Office Space (1999)

(In theaters, February 1999) The cartoon strip Dilbert has enjoyed a long and successful run during the past few years by satirizing the hitherto-ignored daily frustrations of office work. Office Space covers more or less the same ground but, unfortunately, has more than three small boxes in which to delivers its punchlines. The first half of the movie is hilarious as characters, environment and small set-pieces are delivered without attention to story development, and the jokes are funny. Anyone with even the slightest experience with white-collar jobs will laugh along heartily. It’s in the second half that the movie discovers it has to have a plot, and fulfilling this obligation takes away a lot of the movie’s previous care-free fun. Still, it’s more than worth it for its target audience: Some bits are wonderfully directed, most characters are very well sketched and the whole is very enjoyable. Better still; see it with a group of colleagues.

(Second viewing, On DVD, March 2002) White-collar workers of the world, unite and go fetch this little film! Writer/director Mike Judge pokes fun at the meaningless work in which so many of us are stuck and delivers a solid, unpretentious 90-minutes comedy that will leave you smiling. Not many laughs the second time around, but it doesn’t matter a lot when the characters are so sympathetic. The second-half lull is more obvious the second time around, though. Sadly, the DVD doesn’t contain any extras worth mentioning.

(Third viewing, on DVD, October 2009): I hadn’t seen this in a while, and another viewing leaves me both happy and set straight. Sure, this workplace comedy has survived pretty well its first decade: the technology may have changed, but the issues tackled here are more or less the same, and the humour of the film remains applicable to most office contexts. On the other hand, the cult status of the film among IT and office workers may have skewed perceptions a bit: The film is considerably gentler and less steadily hilarious than I recalled it. It’s an ensemble piece, and an atmospheric one: There are moments in the film that glide from one amusing moment to another without necessarily going for the cheap gag. As a result, any compendium of best quotes from the movie doesn’t exactly reflect its genial, easygoing flow (albeit occasionally broken by hardcore rap.) Still, it’s a charming comedy, much closer in tone to director Mike Judge’s subsequent Extract than anyone is likely to remember.

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