Mixed or average reviews - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 19
  2. Negative: 5 out of 19

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Critic Reviews

  1. Mr. Parker has brilliantly updated his source and grasped its essence, composing a sorrowful and hilarious tone poem about alienated labor, or an absurdist workplace sitcom, as if a team of French surrealists had been put in charge of "The Drew Carey Show."
  2. 90
    While Parker and co-writer Catherine di Napoli are faithful to Melville’s plotline, they and a fully engaged supporting cast — have made the old boy's characters more quick-witted than any English Lit major would have thought possible.
  3. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The neat thing about Jonathan Parker's modern-day Bartleby (Outsider Pictures) is that it brings out all the vaudeville undercurrents in Melville's dark tale and turns it into a surreal tragi-sitcom for our own era.
  4. This is a shrewd and effective film from a director who understands how to create and sustain a mood.
  5. 63
    Though this film can be clumsy, its ambitions are equally -- and admirably -- uncommercial.
  6. 63
    The film has been directed by Jonathan Parker; he adapted the Melville story with Catherine DiNapoli. It's his first work, and a promising one. I admire it and yet cannot recommend it, because it overstays its natural running time.
  7. Reviewed by: Joe Leydon
    Although closer in tone to "Office Space" than Herman Melville, Jonathan Parker's absurdist update of Bartleby is surprisingly faithful to the spirit, if not the letter, of the "Moby-Dick" author's 1853 novella about an under-achieving Wall Street copy clerk.
  8. It's a parable as timely today as when it was written. But except for Paymer as the boss who ultimately expresses empathy for Bartleby's pain, the performances are so stylized as to be drained of human emotion.
  9. 50
    It's a testament to both the timelessness and the prescience of Herman Melville's 1853 story "Bartleby, the Scrivener" that it can be so easily updated with so few changes.
  10. Reviewed by: Ron Wells
    Oh, boy. This is not unlike watching one of the movies Jerry Lewis made after that concentration camp/clown epic nearly destroyed his career and his mind.
  11. It's not a bad idea, and it has the right cast and the right look. But, sad to say, it lacks the pace and energy to make it come alive and therefore remains more of a literary conceit than a movie.
  12. Comes across as stiff and uneven.
  13. A key problem here is that the film is adapting a short story, and, as such, has to pad it out to feature length -- it still comes in at a scant 82 minutes, about 52 minutes too long.
  14. Reviewed by: Nick Dawson
    A fable that leaves us unenlightened at the end, it is a curious, worthy failure.
  15. Does little more than re-create the oppressive feeling of suffocating employment. And why put yourself through that experience without the promise of a paycheck at the other end?
  16. 30
    Parker's film is flat beyond the flatness appropriate to the story; the conflict between Glover and Paymer follows Melville's original so squarely that it quickly begins to feel like they're going through the motions.
  17. It's no insult to Melville to say that he wrote, in effect, the original ''Dilbert.'' This movie, unfortunately, makes ''Dilbert'' look like Melville.
  18. 25
    There's obviously some philosophical comment on the alienating effects of ho-hum toil buried somewhere in this weird mess, which features an irritating, theremin-heavy score. But can you be bothered stifling a yawn and searching for meaning? I would prefer not to.
  19. 20
    The loud, musty production design -- steeped in lime greens and tangerine oranges -- smells of recirculated air and enervated ambition, but unfortunately, so does the movie itself.

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