The late 1990's was a golden era for movie comedy, one of the most fertile patches for original takes on funnies ever.
TV was a major catalyst with several Saturday Night Live Alumni making the leap to major movie star almost overnight. Guys like Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Will Ferrell & Chris Rock all made it quickly while other contemporaries like Mike Myers and The Farrelly Brothers were making major waves based on longer success.
However, subversive humor was quickly overtaking the more traditional comedic fare in popularity. South Park was the top show on TV, with merchandise aplenty, endlessly quotable dialogue & at the time the most foul mouthed, downright intentionally offensive movie ever.
Trey Parker & Matt Stone however, did not get there by themselves. The guy who got that kind of humor over in the first place was Mike Judge, creator of Beavis & Butthead, which had become seminal viewing just a few short years earlier. With razor sharp wit and skewering observation, he'd made his first feature length version of the MTV show in 1997 to strong acclaim.
Not only did the characters work, but so did his style of humor. It was a matter of time till it became a live action concept. What resulted is arguably the most influential comedy of the decade, it's contributed more to our current lexicon than nearly any other movie of the time. That movie is Office Space.
Released in 1999, the movie was based on Judge's Milton cartoons and set in the kind of office that we all dread, yet seem to end up working in.
Ron Livingston's Peter is a near faceless man in a blank place, he literally works in a cubicle, has 8 people tell him he forgot to put the new cover sheet on his TPS report, has a crush on the cute girl who works at the TGI rip-off next door yet has nothing exciting to say to her, much less attract her.
He has plenty of friends who are all as miserable as he is, including Samir and the unfortunately named Michael Bolton. Most of Peter's conversation is the scant minutes he gets with them, the aforementioned Joanna and his neighbor Laurence... through the paper thin walls of his banal apartment. The only real excitement is the faux outrage that his boss has slept with Joanna and that a colleague got a massive payout for nearly being killed, yet wants to spend it on the most stupidly inane game since Tic Tac Toe.
Peter's world begins to literally open up when he agrees to be hypnotized at a party. With his new found freedom he quickly goes about sabotaging his job, however his radical ideas see him promoted rather than fired as he hoped!
As Peter begins to realise how bad his company actually is with the incessant bullying of Milton, a geeky and slightly disturbed colleague and the downsizing affecting his friends a harebrained plan is hatched to get revenge and make some money.
What makes Office Space one of the best movies of all time, much less 90's comedy is that every awkward situation is very real. That feeling of trying to evade your boss on a Friday being like Mission Impossible, the frustration of doing a meaningless job in an equally meaningless way, just cos it's prescribed and everyone telling you you're doing it wrong. The searing injustice of not getting a piece of cake when it's someone's birthday. Even down to the awkwardness that your work friends probably are only your friends cos you don't have anyone else.
Performances make the movie rise above along with some choice cameos. Livingston is very likable and this was the movie that helped people see more to Jennifer Aniston than Rachel Green.
The stars are arguably Gary Cole as the horrific Bill Lumburgh and Stephen Root as Milton. The running gag is that he is always threatening to set the building on fire under his breath with each indignity he suffers, and you WANT him to do it and watch it burn.
Phrases like 'O-Face', 'A Case Of The Mondays' and 'pieces of flair' all still get used today, and a lot of people don't realize they came from this film. This movie was a direct influence on Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant when writing The Office, which in turn influenced comedy ever since. The idea of a real place being funny, by being so horrible was new and in many ways Office Space is still the best of it's genre.
Keep an eye out for Judge himself as Joanna's boss and as for her colleague Brian... If you don't want to kill him after 2 seconds, and don't find it funny... there is no help for you.