Mike Judge is a creator I feel weirdly about. His primary successful projects consist of his contributions to animated television, such as King of the Hill and Beavis and Butthead, neither of which I'm particularly fond of. On the other hands his films, such as Office Space and Idiocracy are, in my opinion, excellent but usually failures at the box office. Ah well, box office take is rarely an indication of quality (Avatar is certainly not the best movie ever made, whatever it's box office tells you) and in this case, despite being a commercial failure, this movie is an excellent little film.
The story is concerned with Peter Gibbons, an office drone who's unhappy with his life in general and his job in particular, but lacks the stones to do anything about it. One day, his girlfriend drags him to an 'occupational hypnotherapist' who hypnotizes him out of all his stresses and inhibitions, but dies of a heart attack before he can snap him out of it. Soon he is skipping work, ignoring orders and taking his own path in life. And that's just the first act.
The actors all do excellent jobs. Ron Livingston excels in a mostly simple role as the lead, all the supporting actors turn in great work, especially Gary Cole in a minor role as Peter's slimy boss and Diedrich Bader as Lawrence, Peter's neighbor. And Jennifer Anniston is in it, doing good enough work to make me wonder what the hell is wrong with her in all of her other roles. Special mention goes to an extended cameo from John C McGinley (of Scrubs), giving us a look at what would eventually become his Dr. Cox persona.
Of course, the primary job of any comedy is to make you laugh, and this film does that in spades. While there's much humor to be found in the well written dialogue or in the funny ways Peter goes about ignoring his boss or outright sabotaging his office, one of the main sources comes from an often untapped aspect of a comedy: The soundtrack. Many of the jokes or laughs are derived from the juxtaposition of the actions of white collar, extremely nerdy men with rap music. My personal favorite is a montage of Peter post-hypnosis around the office set to 'Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster.'
Even the usually underappreciated direction gets in on the action. Aside from the above soundtrack choices, some excellent editing and camera use help certain scenes and montages. One of the things that could have contributed to it's financial failure could easily be it's rating; What could have easily been a marketable PG-13 comedy, decided to play it decidedly harder with it's language and content and pushed it up to R, and seemingly paid for it at the box office.
This seems to be another one of those rare films not let down so much by it's own flaws, or lack thereof, but rather a distinct lack of ambition on it's part. Of course saying that the creator of Beevis and Butthead lacks ambition or metaphor in his comedy might seem like a little like saying the ocean is wet, but it really has no desire other than to be an amusing little comedy. What few messages it might are spelled out, and it has no depth to the story. Of course when your primary complaint for a movie is 'There should be more to it,' that's probably a good movie.
When this first came out, me telling you to see it would have been weird, or maybe since it was tanking at the box office, but now, eh not so much. Like many forgotten gems in box office failures, this one has enjoyed a revival as a cult classic on VHS and DVD and now it seems like no film geek is complete until they've added this to the extensive list of movies that failed at the box office but that are now considered classics in certain circles (other examples? Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fight Club) so you probably don't need me to tell you to see it. But if you've legitimately never seen it or never been urged to by your friends, it's a good comedy, one of the better examples of it's genre. See you next time.
Next on Second Age Reviews: Halloween
Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he still maintains that the Superman III joke in this movie was the best thing to come out of that movie.