American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Mike Judge's "Office Space" is a comic cry of rage against the nightmare of modern office life. It has many of the same complaints as "Dilbert" and the movie "Clockwatchers" and, for that matter, the works of Kafka and the Book of Job. It is about work that crushes the spirit. Office cubicles are cells, supervisors are the wardens, and modern management theory is skewed to employ as many managers and as few workers as possible.
As the movie opens, a cubicle slave named Peter (Ron Livingston) is being reminded by his smarmy supervisor (Gary Cole) that all reports now carry a cover sheet. "Yes, I know," he says. "I forgot. It was a silly mistake. It won't happen again." Before long another manager reminds him about the cover sheets. "Yes, I know," he says. Then another manager. And another. Logic suggests that when more than one supervisor conveys the same trivial information, their jobs overlap, and all supervisors after the first one should be shredded.
Peter hates his job. So do all of his co-workers, although one of them, Milton (Stephen Root), has found refuge through an obsessive defense of his cubicle, his radio and his stapler. Milton's cubicle is relocated so many times that eventually it appears to have no entrance or exit; he's walled-in on every side. You may recognize him as the hero of cartoons that played on "Saturday Night Live," where strangers were always arriving to use his cubicle as storage space for cardboard boxes.
Mike Judge, who gained fame through MTV's "Beavis and Butt-Head," and made the droll animated film "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" (1996), has taken his "SNL" Milton cartoons as an inspiration for this live-action comedy, which uses Orwellian satirical techniques to fight the cubicle police: No individual detail of office routine is too absurd to be believed, but together they add up to stark, staring insanity.