Office Invasion is the latest in a long line of films to use science fiction as a vehicle to poke fun at society. Writer Gareth Crocker (Dead Places, Shadow) and co-director Fred Wolmarans (Dead Places, Shadow) have come up with an idea that not only takes shots at corporate culture and the treatment of workers, but being a South African film also becomes a fairly direct parable about colonialism.
Three friends Sam (Rea Rangaka, Tremors 5: Bloodlines, Troy: Fall of a City), Junior (Sechaba Ramphele, Love on Safari), and Prince (Kiroshan Naidoo, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, The Banana Splits Movie) work for AMI a corporation that mines a rare metal called Zulcanoid for which there is far more demand than supply.
When the company is suddenly sold and the new owners Gregory (Greg Viljoen, Witness to a Kill, An Act of Defiance), Badrick (Stevel Marc, Hell Trip, The Mauritanian), and Anya (Aimee Ntuli) claim that business is slow and initiate severe austerity measures, including ending medical benefits, something that hits Sam, who has a seriously ill daughter, hard.
So far this sounds more like 9 to 5 or Blue Collar than They Live. And that is one of the film’s two main problems. Office Invasion runs for just under two hours and, apart from a brief prologue and Zulcanoid itself, there’s nothing about it that could be called science fiction until the film’s last fifteen or twenty minutes.
Instead, Office Invasion concentrates on the goings on at the company and the various characters’ troubled home lives for the first hour. Then, after all three of them find themselves unemployed, they decide to steal some of the metal and sell it to a Chinese mobster. It’s only after they’re back in the building that they discover the new owners are aliens.
Now, this could have still worked if the leadup had been funny. But rather than use satire, or even believable situations, Office Invasion dumps one ridiculously stupid scene after another on the viewer. Junior ends up having to take an inflatable sex doll everywhere he goes at work. Bonuses are replaced with company-branded clothes left over from the year 2000. Junior’s slacker roommates who steal his food and sell the appliances to buy a new gaming console.
To be fair Office Invasion is a South African film and maybe this is considered hysterical there, just like what passes for comic relief in the Chinese kaiju films I’ve reviewed. But it did nothing for me, I just found it annoying and insulting to my intelligence. The fact it goes on for so long just adds insult to injury.
Even worse, when the aliens are finally revealed, the showdown between them and our heroes is short and not very exciting. They just get knocked around a lot until one of them gives away their weakness while boasting. The design for the aliens’ actual form isn’t bad, but the CGI used to display it is less than acceptable.
Not only does Office Invasion fail as a comedy, but it also wastes the potential it had as satire as well. While it does deal with the way corporations treat and exploit workers it does so in such a silly way that there’s no real impact from it. And when it does try to get at least somewhat serious with the loss of medical benefits, it falls back on the badly overused cliche of a sick child who depends on it. That’s been around at least since Tiny Tim and Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.