Head Office

I’ve always considered it an achievement in my life that I’ve never had a job that required me to wear a suit. They seem designed to be uncomfortable and I can’t imagine how anyone could ever be productive wearing one. Needless to say, the world of big business is not my jam. Films like 1985’s Head Office just drive home that fact. Sure, the movie is giving us an exaggerated look at the denizens that inhabit all those office buildings, but even if just a fraction of this film is based in reality, then I have no desire to interact with these suit-wearing types.

Judge Reinhold stars as Jack Issel. He’s a bit of a slacker, but nonetheless is hired straight out of college by a big company, INC, wanting to secure the influence of his senator father. INC makes everything from hair cream to nuclear weapons. On his first day on the job, Jack is assigned to work with two different individuals who both meet untimely, work-related demises. This puts him on the fast-track to an executive position. Within just a week he has moved up the ranks and is sitting in the board room alongside various bored bigwigs, including Michael O’Donoghue, Wallace Shawn, Jane Seymour, Richard Masur, and the boss, Eddie Albert.

Jack, however, finds himself entranced by a young woman named Rachel (Lori-Nan Engler) who is fighting to stop INC’s closure of a small-town factory. This will put the whole town out of work, which is beside the point cuz Jack just thinks she’s really cute. Soon, Jack learns that the plant closure is part of a bigger plot designed to prop up a new military regime in a third-world country.

Head Office came and went from theaters in 1985 very quickly, despite numerous TV ads. Thing is, those ads were very misleading. From the TV spots, you’d swear the movie starred Danny DeVito and Rick Moranis. Now I know what you’re thinking…he didn’t mention DeVito and Moranis in the plot synopsis. That’s because they are barely in the movie. They essentially cameo as the two execs who die at the start of the film, making way for Reinhold’s character to move up the ranks. DeVito plays a guy involved in an insider trading scandal who chucks himself out a window, while Moranis is a screaming exec who gives himself a heart attack. They’re both gone 20 minutes in, and they’re the best things in this movie. I make that statement while also stressing that this probably the weakest moment on both of their resumes. So if that doesn’t give you an idea about the quality of the film we’re dealing with, I don’t know what will.

If the film has anything going for it, it’s Judge Reinhold. He’s in that same sort of category that Steve Guttenberg was back in the 80’s. He maybe wasn’t in the best of films all the time, but he was pleasantly goofy and likable. In this film, Reinhold has the likable part down, but the goofy is lacking. Having him be a bit more of a trickster, a rebel, would’ve gone a long way to make this film a bit more palatable. Lori-Nan Engler as the love interest Rachel is also very likable, but we don’t get a ton of opportunities for her character to gel and play off of Reinhold.

The film’s biggest problem is that it is extraordinarily muddled. We have a ton of characters who all seem to be vying to be the film’s main comedic antagonist, but nobody stands out. They come and go willy nilly in a wide variety of half-baked subplots. For a while it seems like Jane Seymour is going to be the main baddie, but she just shows up in lingerie for a few scenes and then disappears. Michael O’Donoghue keeps showing up to cause trouble, but for someone who made a name for himself as an edgy writer for National Lampoon and SNL, his comedy stylings here are about as dry as a bag of sand. Ultimately, there’s nothing for Reinhold to play off of, so most of the jokes fizzle.

The film does feature a few other cameos that may provide some slight amusement. For example, boxing promoter Don King, of all people, shows up as part of the INC board. Brian Doyle-Murray also shows up briefly as does Don Novello as a limo driver who just wants to play his Julio Iglesias tapes. Honestly, it’s a packed cast that should’ve been able to deliver something better. They threw the comedic kitchen sink at this film, but Head Office ends up delivering very few laughs in the end.

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