You don’t have to have worked in a cubicle to “get” “Office Space.” It’s enough to have been stuck on a freeway lane, watching adjacent cars moving along as you and your car crawl toward work. It’s enough to have faced routine everyday at a job that only exists to exist. It’s enough to attempt to be mellow about a job you hate, only to have that feeling replaced with the usual sore feelings as soon as you walk to your desk.
That’s why Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is one of the great heroes of cinema. He has a crappy job at a software company called Initech, sits in a cubicle, deals with useless papers and has bosses come around to tell him repeatedly that he forgot to put a cover sheet on his TPS report. The TPS report represents the one aspect of your job that makes no sense. It could be completely removed from your daily routine and nothing would be affected.
Peter can’t tough it out any longer, and looks like it. He has to contend with the chirpy voice of Nina (Kinna McInroe), who constantly tells callers, “Just a moment,” the high note in her voice accentuating the first word. Diagonally from him is Milton (Stephen Root), who is always told to move his desk, but tries to tell passively confrontational Lumbergh (Gary Cole) that he hasn’t received his paycheck and doesn’t want to move any further. In his hilariously clipped voice, he even considers burning down the building. This is Peter’s world, folks. It has to change.
When his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend (Alexandra Wentworth) takes him to a hypnotherapist (Michael McShane), Peter is put under deep sleep hypnosis and stays there after the therapist drops dead to the floor from a heart attack. It’s at that moment when the cheering begins for those of us who’ve wanted so badly to simply forget work, forget that it’s in our lives, and even if we have to go, forget why we are there.
Peter gloriously rebels against the office structure. He skips work and goes fishing with his next-door neighbor (Diedrich Bader) and new girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston), who has a just-as-bad non-office job at a restaurant resembling T.G.I. Friday’s. When his co-worker and friend Michael Bolton (David Herman) tries to convince him not to attend a meeting with two consultants named Bob to decide whom they will fire, he contentedly waves him off and charms the Bobs (the outstanding John C. McGinley and former “Cheers” semi-regular Paul Willson). Life is good for Peter and vicariously good for us. This is what we all want to do so badly, but can’t. All that can be done is to insert ourselves into Peter’s fortunate situation, especially when he somehow lands a promotion after blowing off work.
Mike Judge, who created “Beavis & Butt-Head” and “King of the Hill,” wrote and directed the film, his first live-action comedy, and is dead-on about the bad feelings that people have toward work. Hours and hours are wasted. Sure we can’t legally try the money scam Peter, Michael, and Samir (Ajay Naidu) attempt, but who hasn’t had those moments where they’ve wanted to take something away from a company that’s taken everything away from them? “Office Space” is one of many reasons 1999 was a golden year for the movies, and as long as cubicles exist, as long as traffic jams are commonplace and as long as people hate their jobs, there will always be a place for Mike Judge’s great work of frustration, discontent, ill feelings and ultimately happy circumstance.
Unfortunately, the new “Special Edition with Flair!” DVD, long in the making and much longer in the waiting, doesn’t live up to the film, which has long been ready for a quality disc, considering that it found its audience on home video. A half-hour documentary titled “Out of the Office” merely analyzes the characters by way of the actors who played them, with snippets from Judge’s “Milton” cartoons included. It’s disappointing that Judge didn’t at least give Fox full rights to include them in their entirety.
Seven of the deleted scenes included are just inconsequential bits. It’s nice to see a little more of the characters, but it’s obvious why they didn’t make the cut. However, the remaining scene, “Peter Goes Off on Nina,” should please all who have annoying co-workers. That’s why, despite the lack of satisfying extra features, we’ll always have “Office Space” as a wonderful fantasy. Don’t buy that stress ball. Buy this DVD.