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MOVIE REVIEWS : ‘OFFICE’: AS CORRUPT AS ITS TARGETS

There’s a built-in schizophrenia about pictures like “Head Office” (citywide) that can leave you holding your head.

Here is a satire about government and business corruption that’s as empty, corrupt and manipulative as everything it attacks: a frantic, jokeless comedy about selling out, that sells out itself constantly. This is another big, dumb, pointless picture, a “high concept” movie that’s all concept and no movie.

The idea behind “Head Office” is promising. A U.S. senator’s good-hearted son--played with his usual cherubic nonchalance by Judge Reinhold--is hired, to curry a favorable Latin American vote from his dad, by a duplicitous multinational corporation that makes everything from fast food to nuclear warheads.

He learns that everyone at Inc. International is crazy, vile or corrupt--the only exceptions being a lovable mensch ; and good buddy Max, an amiable, pot-smoking lecher.

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There’s also a love interest: a gorgeous young rebel circulating petitions to keep Inc. International in Allenville. In the movie’s most self-revealing plot twist, this pretty protester (Lori-Nan Engler) turns out to be the daughter of the company head (Eddie Albert). At this point, you can probably guess that the movie’s pretentions to rebelliousness are so much eyewash. This is really a Horatio Alger story with a guilty conscience.

Perhaps writer-director Ken Finkelman’s slant on corporate lunacy comes from his most recent script assignments: “Grease II” and “Airplane II"--two movies that helped give sequels a bad name.

The structure here is a bit like ‘50s social comedies but there’s no satiric force, just chutzpah and energy. The movie confuses iconoclasm with wit, and bile with guts; it’s mostly thin and mean-spirited. It also seems to have been edited into half-coherence: Certainly Finkelman can’t have meant to drop major characters, and leave so many loose ends.

He’s managed to assemble a talented cast: Wally Shawn, Danny DeVito, Rick Moranis and Don Novello, among others. But at one point, when Jane Seymour gives an intense speech about people deluding themselves that compromises to obtain power don’t soil them, you wonder if he’s listening to the words he wrote. Wasn’t “Airplane II” compromise enough?

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