I’m super short on time lately. Not, like, “I don’t even have ten minutes spare,” but definitely to the point where getting an hour or two spare is getting very difficult. So I wanted to watch Office Space, a classic movie that came out when I was seven and which I still haven’t seen, realized that this was going to occupy the time I usually have for reading Conan the Indomitable for a blog post, and decided hey, I could write a blog post about Office Space instead, Conan will still be there tomorrow.
So Office Space is a 1999 movie about a guy who works at a generic 90s tech company and they’re bringing in some consultants to figure out who to fire. Our protagonist hates his job because his job is mired in pointless bureaucracy. He has eight bosses (the movie does not, unfortunately, then require him to traverse the grass world, desert world, ocean world, ice world, lava world circuit to kill them all), and they only ever talk to him about getting the right cover on TPS reports. The plot starts when Jimmy Protagonist’s girlfriend brings him to a hypnotherapist, who hypnotizes him into forgetting all his worries, and then has a heart attack before he can break the trance, putting Jimmy in a completely relaxed state permanently (hypnosis doesn’t actually work this way, incidentally, the trance wears off in like an hour if it’s not maintained, but it’s the premise of the movie, so we’ll roll with it). As a result, he barely comes into work, does basically nothing while he’s there, but the consultants absolutely love him and convince one of his bosses to give him a promotion while firing his two friends, who have actually been showing up to work. This snaps him out of the trance and leads to a scheme to steal money from the company. Hilarity ensues when the scheme goes wrong and the three risk getting caught, until an entirely unrelated disgruntled employee burns the building down, destroying all the evidence that a crime ever occurred and, through an unlikely coincidence, ends up with all the stolen money. The weird thing is the smoothness of the switch from a movie about a guy hypnotized out of all his work worries to a movie about a guy stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his abusive workplace.
Despite being the origin of the “that’d be real great” meme and the two Bobs brought in to consult being parodied in multiple places across the internet, Office Space is weirdly lacking in real laugh out loud moments or quotable lines. What it has is a really good sense of atmosphere. Just like the drudgery of the terrible workplace it’s making fun of, the comedy of Office Space accumulates over time, coming together to form an experience far stronger than any of its individual moments. No one moment of the abuse heaped up on the eventual arsonist is particularly hilarious, but as a running gag spaced across the entire movie, it’s great. The whole “that’d be real great” line from the movie isn’t really funny and I don’t know how it turned into a meme, but as one part of the terrible boss performance that stretches across the whole movie, it works.
I ended up liking Office Space better than movies which actually made me laugh, even though it didn’t. Funny thing is, I don’t think Office Space is really that much better of a movie than the rest, I just think it’s different enough that I’d rather have one Office Space than one more Groundhog Day or Anchorman or whatever. It kind of reminds me of how Simpsons jokes were, back in the days when they were actually good, structured such that it was impossible to stick a laugh track on, because the joke had multi-layered punchlines where one punchline serves as the setup for the next, chained together three or four times. Office Space is that, but with each joke spaced out over a 90 minute movie, all running in parallel.