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Enter the laugh factory…

Shifting focus from disenchanted wage slaves to harassed middle-management, Mike Judge’s follow-up to seminal 1999 comedy Office Space (by way of satirical misstep Idiocracy) represents a mellower take on workplace relations from the Beavis And Butt-Head bloke.

It’s unlikely, then, to foster the same cultish affection as its predecessor. Still, there’s fun to be had watching sex-starved factory boss Joel Reynolds (Jason Bateman) trying to juggle his professional and personal woes.

On the one hand, there’s the fall-out from an assembly-line accident that has left an underling (Clifton Collins Jr) with one testicle. On the other, there’s Joel’s scheme to justify infidelity w`ith a new employee (Mila Kunis) by conspiring to make his wife (Kristen Wiig) cheat on him.

There’s never much at stake, the slim plot being as ultimately inconsequential as the little bottles of food flavouring Joel’s business produces. Yet Judge keeps the movie perky, largely by filling its fringes with grotesque oddballs and comic cameos.

Chief among these is David Koechner’s annoying neighbour Nathan, an irksome prat who button-holes Joel every time he wearily returns home and who won’t take a hint or a brush-off. Ben Affleck’s a hoot as well as Bateman’s long-haired barkeep pal, while KISS frontman Gene Simmons has a ball with his role as an arrogant celebrity lawyer.

There’s also fine work from JK Simmons as a rhino-skinned supervisor either unwilling or unable to remember anyone’s name. What is missing here is any perceivable agenda.

Judge shows little interest in using the tensions and divisions in an acutely observed fictional microcosm as a metaphor for a wider social malaise.

Put simply, there doesn’t seem to be a point – beyond the rather obvious one that however high you climb, you’ll still have to deal with butt-heads.
 

Verdict:

Judge’s latest doesn’t linger long in the memory, generating more gentle chuckles than outand- out belly laughs. But it goes down smoothly enough, Bateman and co proving capable cogs in the King Of The Hill man’s well-oiled comic machine.

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