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This may seem like a plot, but it's really only a setup. And Judge seems to have realized that, because, well past the midway mark, he effectively starts a second plot, with Peter and his two best friends (David Herman and Ajay Naidu) launching a clever embezzlement scheme. This nearly episodic structure prevents the movie from developing much narrative drive, but, unlike Jawbreaker, Office Space's pleasures don't really depend on plot. It's pretty much what a Dilbert feature should look like -- in fairness, Judge was mining this subject matter before Scott Adams started his popular comic strip -- and, as in Dilbert, it nails bureaucratic stupidity in the workplace and the sorts of personalities this stupidity attracts and fosters with absolute accuracy.

Although Office Space doesn't qualify as sophisticated comedy, it also avoids slapstick and stupidity jokes. For better or worse -- and I say for better -- Judge is not the Farrelly brothers. His movie, despite its satirical exaggerations, is still basically a character-based comedy. In Livingston's hands, Peter is a likable hero whose all-American blandness makes him an appropriate contrast to Milton and the other hideously vapid or frustrated workers. What will seem strange to fans of Judge's animated work is the way most of the actors appear to be doing imitations of characters performed by Judge himself in Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill. It's decidedly weird to hear these familiar voices finally coming out of human mouths.

Open Feb. 19.
-- Andy Klein

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