Office Space is based on the Milton series of cartoons created by Mike Judge. Office Space was Mike Judge's foray into live action film and his second full length motion picture release (the first being the animated Beavis and Butt-head Do America). The promotional campaign for Office Space often associated it with Beavis and Butt-head, ensuring that audiences would expect a brand of humor similar to that of the creator's previous animated efforts, rather than the relatively low-key ironic humor of the film.
While not a box office success, the film has become a cult classic; it has since sold very well on video and DVD, and some of the movie's dialogue has entered into the popular lexicon since its release.
Peter is depressed, bored and pushed around at work, he attends an occupational hypnotherapy session urged upon him by his girlfriend Anne (Alexandra Wentworth). The obese "occupational hypnotherapist", Dr. Swanson, (Mike McShane), suddenly dies of a heart attack before he can snap Peter out of a state of complete relaxation. The newly relaxed and still half-hypnotized Peter wakes up the next morning and ignores continued calls from Anne (who leaves him) and Lumbergh (who was expecting Peter to work over the weekend). Peter announces that he will simply not go to work anymore, instead pursuing his lifelong dream of "doing nothing", and finally asks out Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), a waitress he's long wanted to date.
Despite his lack of attendance at work, he is promoted by The Bobs while Michael and Samir are fired. To exact revenge on Initech, the three friends decide to infect the accounting system with a computer virus, designed to divert fractions of pennies into a bank account they control (see salami slicing). A misplaced decimal point means the virus steals hundreds of thousands of dollars in the first few days, a far more conspicuous loss to Initech. After a crisis of conscience, Peter writes a letter in which he takes all the blame for the crime, then slips an envelope containing the letter and the money in unsigned Traveler's checks under the door of Lumbergh's office when he's not there, expecting to be arrested soon afterward.
However, all of their problems are solved when Milton snaps after being increasingly ignored and marginalized throughout the film, and sets fire to the Initech office building. Peter finally finds a job that he likes: working construction with his next-door neighbor, Lawrence (Diedrich Bader), cleaning up the rubble of Initech and Samir and Michael get jobs at Initrode, a rival company. While cleaning up the debris, Peter finds Milton's red stapler and keeps it, saying that he knows someone who could use it (i.e. Milton).
The very last scene of the film shows that Milton has made his way to a resort in Mexico, living large off the checks he had found (before setting the fire) in the envelope Peter had left in Lumbergh's office.
Artie Lange also auditioned for the role of Milton. He describes his audition as being so bad it was "like a plumber who won a radio contest and got to try out for a movie".
Judge sold the film to 20th Century Fox based on his script and a cast that included Jennifer Aniston, Ron Livingston, and David Herman. Originally, the studio wanted to make a movie out of the Milton character but Judge was not interested, opting instead to make more of an ensemble cast–based film. The studio suggested he make a movie like Car Wash but "just set in an office". Judge made the relatively painless transition from animation to live-action with the help of the film's director of photography who taught him about lenses and where to put the camera. Judge says, "I had a great crew, and it's good going into it not pretending you're an expert".
The film received mixed to positive reviews with a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 68 metascore on Metacritic. In his review in the New York Times, Stephen Holden wrote, "It has the loose-jointed feel of a bunch of sketches packed together into a narrative that doesn't gather much momentum". Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote that Judge, "treats his characters a little like cartoon creatures. That works. Nuances of behavior are not necessary, because in the cubicle world every personality trait is magnified, and the captives stagger forth like grotesques". In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle writes, "Livingston is nicely cast as Peter, a young guy whose imagination and capacity for happiness are the very things making him miserable". In the USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna wrote, "If you've ever had a job, you'll be amused by this paean to peons".
However, Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "C" rating and criticized it for feeling "cramped and underimagined". In his review for the Globe and Mail, Rick Groen wrote, "Perhaps his TV background makes him unaccustomed to the demands of a feature-length script (the ending seems almost panicky in its abruptness); or maybe he just succumbs to the lure of the easy yuk . . . what began as discomfiting satire soon devolves into silly farce".
However, the film has become a cult classic and has sold very well on video and DVD, and some of the movie's dialogue has entered into the popular lexicon since its release.
Entertainment Weekly ranked it 5th on their Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years list.