Time: 89 mins.
When I first saw the previews for this movie, I chuckled, but I didn't rush out to see it. Now out on DVD, I'm glad I got the chance. This is not to say that this is a brilliant comedy that will have you rolling in the aisles; however, it does have some serious workplace humor that just can't be denied. The film is based on the comic strip "Milton," which I think is why it just never quite gels into a cohesive story. The characters and situations are familiar and well-defined, the plot just doesn't go anywhere interesting. It builds up to this big moment and then sort of peeters out, like Judge didn't know quite how to wrap up the story. It doesn't really make much of a difference if you happen to be part of the corporate world. The situations are as painfully frustrating as they are funny and you'll be laughing at every one.
The film opens with Peter Gibbon's (Livingston) arriving to work on Monday morning. He works as a computer programmer for the Initech Corporation. Every day is worse than the last and he's getting desperate. The minute he sits down he's bothered by numerous co-workers who are quick to tell him he forgot to put the new cover sheet on his weekly report, even though it's not due for several days. He tries to explain that he just forgot, that he received the memo and would make the change, but that doesn't seem to matter. Conformity to the rules is everything. Needing a break he gathers his buddies, Samir and Michael Bolton, and goes to a local coffee shop, where he sees the waitress of his dreams (Aniston). They prod him to ask her out, but he has no confidence. His life is already horrible, why make it worse by being turned down. Plus he already has a girlfriend.
Who, by the way, drags him to a hypnotherapist to cure his depression. Unfortunately, the doctor dies in the middle of the session, but not before he puts Peter under and instructs him relax. Trapped in a super-relaxed state, Peter finds new meaning in his life. He blows off work for the weekend and just sleeps. He gets the courage to ask Joanna the waitress out. It's not that he's trying to get fired, he just doesn't want to do his job anymore. Which of course, gets him promoted by the efficiency experts recently brought in to clean house. Instead of firing him, they reward him for his brutal honesty, believing he's slacking off due to a lack of motivation from upper management. Samir and Michael aren't as lucky. Angered because the company is replacing them with cheap labor, the three men hatch a plan to get rich and screw the company. Much to their surprise, it works. Only a little too well. They are know faced with the greatest challenge of their lives figure out a way to return the money or spend some serious time behind bars. In the end it works out for everyone they get jobs they can live with.
Livingston is great as the slacker Peter. Once hypnotized he truly finds what he wants to do with his life nothing. His interview with the consultants is hysterical; of course we all know we'd be fired if we were ever that honest with our bosses about what we do all day. Gary Cole is amazingly annoying as Peter's boss. Every time he steps foot onscreen you cringe and want to run for cover. He's pure evil in the form of a pompous dweeb. You know the type and he captures them perfectly. The film makers don't really use Aniston all that well, though the scenes with her TGIF Fridays-type supervisor are highly amusing. Her boss feels she's not showing enough of her personality because she only wears the required amount of buttons. Needless to say, he gets a face full of her "flare" when she quits her job. The best scene in the film showcases the three friends going ballistic on a piece of office equipment. You will never look at a fax machine the same way again.
Overall, this isn't a bad movie, it just isn't great either, which hasn't stopped it from becoming a cult classic. There are enough moments of pure genius to justify that status. It's the moments in between that keep me from watching it over and over. If you work in an office, it's a must see.