Actors Get Lost In Clunky `Office Space'

Posted: February 19, 1999

The state of social satire and black comedy in Hollywood is in serious disrepair - for proof, look no further than this week's "Jawbreaker." (See Page 53.)

Hollywood is good at making fun of itself, but seems mystified by anything going on east of Mulholland Drive.

As a consequence, its political commentary is uncertain and clumsy ("Bulworth"), its social commentary is ugly and lacking perspective ("Very Bad Things").

The best work, particularly on the subject of jobs and families, is being done by cartoonists - TV shows like "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill," or the newspaper strip "Dilbert."

Perhaps recognizing this, Hollywood has drafted Mike Judge - creator of "King of the Hill" and "Beavis and Butt-head" - to satirize corporate America in the movie "Office Space."

Judge wrote and directed the movie. He wrote it well, and directed it badly.

"Office Space" has several funny bits, but the actors are obviously lost, and most have a hard time breaking through the flat surface that cartoonist Judge has drawn for them.

The movie stars Ron Livingston as a software drone at a bland technology firm where a half-dozen bosses scold him for putting the wrong cover sheet on his "TPS report."

He is on the verge of a personal and career crisis when, at a therapy session, a mishap leaves him semi-permanently hypnotized.

In this state, he feels invulnerable. He tells off his oily boss (Gary Cole), and delivers a brutally frank corporate critique to the downsizer (John C. McGinley) brought in to slash the work force.

All of this works well. The mystery is why Judge abandons it, and switches to a clunky plot about corporate espionage.

His story has no real shape, and he wastes the comic ability of Jennifer Aniston on a role that is small, shallow and, worst of all, way overclothed.

OFFICE SPACE - Grade: C

Parents' guide - R; obscene language

Running time: 86 minutes

Showing at: Area theaters

Peter - Ron Livingston

Joanna - Jennifer Aniston

Bill - Gary Cole

Bob - John C. McGinley

Produced by Daniel Rappaport and Michael Rotenberg, written and directed by Mike Judge, distributed by 20th Century Fox.

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