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Mike Judge reportedly started writing the script for Extract when Office Space was released 10 years ago. The latter’s poor box office returns and critical reception shelved the new project, but then, Family Guy–style, Office Space rocketed to cult status in its DVD and cable afterlife, and the Beavis and Butt-head creator and undeniable master of the brilliantly stupid regained some measure of respect. So now we get Extract, Judge’s new workplace comedy, in which the common 9-to-5 man still wants to burn the building down—but this time, sympathies lie with the boss, not with the working stiffs.
Extract is no Office Space, but it’s amiable enough to produce constistent chuckles, if only the occasional gut-busting laugh. Joel (Jason Bateman) is the founder and on-site owner of Reynold’s Extracts, a plant whose employees have the usual gripes but also the benefit of being able to jaw at the owner himself, whose office oversees the production floor.
At first, Joel’s main dissatisfaction is with his wife (Kristen Wiig), who rarely puts out. He’s optimistic about the potential of a company buyout that would let him retire. But then an employee gets injured on the job—thanks to a stubborn, racist old biddy (Beth Grant), who wears shirts with angel-winged cats and who bitches more than she works—and the possibility of a lawsuit threatens to sour the sale. A welcome, if morally vexing, distraction arrives soon enough in the form of a smokin’ temp, Cindy (Mila Kunis). Cindy flirts with Joel, and he confesses his temptation to a longtime friend and drug-pushing bartender, Dean (a shaggy, hippie-ish Ben Affleck). Dean’s advice? It’s obvious: Hire a gigolo (Dustin Milligan) to seduce his wife. If she goes for it, Joel can then pursue Cindy guilt-free.
Not that reality is a prime concern in such a satire, but anyone who’s seen Extract’s trailer and thought, Yeah, right, someone as hot as Cindy would end up working in a plant? can be reassured that there’s actually a solid (and initially surprising) reason she applies for a job there. And gigolos and testicle-busting chain-reaction mishaps aside, the film is terrific at portraying the dreariness of most people’s cyclical work-home-TV-bed existence. Nearly every character is recognizable and funny without being over-the-top, including J.K. Simmons as the plant’s manager (who doesn’t bother to remember his employees’ names, instead content to mock the way they speak) and Clifton Collins Jr., this year’s Indie “it” guy, the hickish if good-hearted clock-puncher who gets sidelined in the aforementioned accident. Even Gene Simmons, as frightening as he looks, isn’t totally cartoonish as the heavily advertised ambulance-chaser who wants to squeeze Joel out of business.
Bateman is also a good choice for the dry, under-reacting leader of the blind. He can get a laugh with a blank stare (a scene in which he’s negotiating with Brad, the dense male hooker, is terrific) or a well-timed cough (a pot-smoking sequence with Dean and a gigantic bong is one of the few laugh-out-loud moments). As always, Judge is adept at wringing humor out of little things, such as Joel’s attempt to slam down a cell phone or Brad’s seduction of his wife, shot with the faded look of an old porno. As the film ambles agreeably toward its end, you’ll realize that although Reynold’s Extracts is no Initech, it won’t be the project that puts Judge out of business.