Admins follows a day in the life of Dan (Jay Saunders), a systems administrator working for a government contractor. When their Mobile Device Management is hijacked, he soon finds himself called into office during his day off. As colleagues start to flood him with requests for their mobile phones to be fixed, Dan’s issues only begin to escalate when he learns that cutbacks may be imminent. With his good friend, Randy (Doug Henderson), on hand to smugly serve as a reminder that the “FTE”’s are practically immune from such a predicament, Dan plots to move himself up the ladder, facing codes of morality as he bypasses the usual chains of command in order to capture a piece of that ever-elusive corporate pie.
Destined to forever be compared to cult 90s hits Clerks and Office Space - as well as finding itself nestled amongst more recent mainstream hits such as The IT Crowd, Silicon Valley and Horrible Bosses - Admins is but the latest cinematic attempt at speaking to the ordinary working Joe. We’ve all been there: working for a company that doesn’t appear to appreciate your contributions, where Human Resources seems like a foreign concept and that the idea of providing support-based assistance is considered a somewhat menial position, despite it being an invaluable asset to those more ignorant of industry tools. The arguably thankless task of working within a hierarchal system of reluctant go-getters and general self-absorbed arseholes is certainly a decent enough - and relatable - template to hang a narrative on, though whether or not Admins actually says anything new is entirely subjective.
The problem here, is that for all its admiration of things that have come before it, Admins’ sense of what should be flattering homage quickly falls into forgettable pastiche. Hitting most of the same beats as Kevin Smith’s 1994 debut, it’s alarming just how much has been regurgitated here, from Dan’s initially cute moaning about how he “shouldn’t even be here today” to the bigoted Randy, with his articulate sense of cynicism, sexual perversions and bouts of vocal reasoning. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Following a similarly episodic structure, denoted by black and white title cards set to instrumental rock cues, our lead protagonists crack wise with social observations, while tertiary support walk in and out being all quirky; there’s even a Jay and Silent Bob duo, playing to a similar tune, as the picture then builds toward a cathartic fisticuffs, which predictably airs out all of Dan and Randy’s dirty laundry, thus hitting the reset button. The lifted gags here are so glaring it’s often distracting: at one point, Randy reads off a slew of perverted porn sites in front of a female colleague, mirroring that of a classic scene from Clerks in which Randal places a telephone order for a dozen dirty VHS tapes in front of a mother and her child. It surely isn’t by coincidence that Dan and Randy’s names are practically the same as their progenitors. Because of this, Admins seems all the more trite as it struggles to carve a distinctive identity of its own, regardless of what little else it has to say about the intrusion of technology on our social lives, as a means to update an old story for the digital age.
In-between such moments we’ve a sporting rivalry, as FTEs are pitted against contractors, though this narrative device is never capitalised to greater effect, just as the vignette-like comedy sections (which at times are literally vignetted for some unknown technical reason) simply focus on some fairly arbitrary jokes, the most baffling of which owing to Randy’s self-perceived latent homosexuality, born from a clumsy encounter at an an(u)al drugs test and further validated by being told that his pink shirt looks like a blouse by everyone he encounters. I mean, it’s 2015!
Still, director Aaron Goodmiller - with a crew so small you can count them on both hands - ensures that Admins remains an impressive enough feat, being shot over a period of just ten days. It’s a passable looking picture, given that we’re looking at a realistic slice of everyday working life, and although having dialogue slightly marred by ambient noise, is backed up by a solid leading cast. Jay Saunders, looking as if he’s nursing an ice-cream headache throughout, makes a sympathetic lead who has a little fun with the female cast of Rebecca Wahls and his actual wife Devon Saunders, while Doug Henderson, doing his best T.J. Miller impression, steals the show as an affable enough character, despite his social hangups and personal insecurities.
In all, Admins has the good grace not to outstay its welcome. Clocking in at a lean 80 minutes, it’s a decent entry into the pantheon of office-based comedies and brings with it a relatable message. However, with having seen it all play out better elsewhere, it’s a far cry from becoming a cult classic.
Admins is available to rent or purchase from Vimeo here