Anyone who has ever worked in an office will be able to identify with the antics in Nine to Five. Although it can probably be argued that Patricia Resnick and director Colin Higgins' script [from a story by Resnick] at times borders on the inane, the bottom line is that this picture is a lot of fun.
Tomlin confirms herself as a star whenever she gets the material, and Dolly Parton's dolliness is very winning, but it's easy to forget that Jane Fonda is around - she seems to get lost in the woodwork. The director, Colin Higgins, is a young fossil who sets up flaccid, hand-me-down gags as if they were hilarious, and damned if the audience doesn't laugh.
Nine to Five is a film full or surprises - some pleasant, other disappointing. The most pleasant surprise is the appearance of Dolly Parton, who with this one film establishes herself as a thoroughly engaging movie star. The biggest disappointment is that this Jane Fonda comedy about a trio of secretaries out to get their boss doesn't have more bite. [19 Dec 1980, p.2-1]
Despite an excellent and promising cast, this Hollywood attempt at a mainstream feminist comedy is flabby and bland...Complacent, and even worse, not very funny, despite the efforts of the ever-excellent Tomlin.
For all the trouble taken, Nine to Five comes out as a very ordinary situation comedy about three bubble heads seeking revenge on a boss who is a big old meanie. The justice of the cause, the abilities of the actresses, the intrinsic interest of the scene -- these are all lost in the frantic efforts to cram in satire, social commentary, slapstick and sexual oppression. There is such a thing as working too hard. [19 Dec 1980, p.19]
Gary ArnoldWashington Post
The new facetious depressant from Colin Higgins -- the screenwriter and now director who has parlayed "Harold and Maude," "The Silver Streak" and "Foul Play" into one of the more baffling winning streaks on record -- runs a merely weak comic premise into the ground with coarse, laborious execution. [19 Dec 1980, p.E1]