In 1998 Mike Judge directed Office Space, a delightfully shrewd and intelligent comedy that perfectly represented the monotony of an average working day. Office Space was of course tragically mishandled initially, but found a powerful lease of life in the home video market, thus allowing its creator to attain a godlike status in cult circles. Extract returns Judge’s dry wit to the workplace, and delivers a fairly entertaining ride for those willing to partake. The film isn’t as razor sharp as Office Space and lacks that movie’s sublime characterization, but it still delivers considerably more laughs than most studio comedies.
Joel (Jason Bateman) is the owner and manager of his own flavour extract company, a tough task given his loudmouthed staff and dull personal life. His marriage to wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) is stale and sexless, his only solace coming from the company of his bartender buddy Dean (Ben Affleck). With the arrival of attractive new employee Cindy (Mila Kunis), Joel begins to feel the need to take action, him and Dean proceeding to hatch an ill judged plan that will allow Joel to hook up with the factory’s latest arrival, and excuse him in the eyes of his wife. However when the scheme falls apart Joel is left in a stressful situation, something not helped by the fact one of his crew Step (Clifton Collins Jr.) has mysteriously decided to take legal action concerning an accident that cost him a testicle.
Jason Bateman isn’t particularly likable in Extract, but the actor does a decent job of encapsulating his character’s increasing anxiety and spiralling sense of self-destruction. Bateman also displays his celebrated comic timing rather well here, Judge’s refined humour combining nicely with the actor’s sarcastic delivery. Kristen Wiig is sidelined by a script that struggles to flesh out an engaging sense of marital woe between herself and Bateman, but Ben Affleck puts in a laid back but consistently amusing turn as a stoner with a strong line in idiotic advice. The calibre of supporting actor in “Extract” is impressive; J.K Simmons, Clifton Collins Jr and David Koechner are talented folks who deliver small but credible performances to further bolster the picture. Koechner in particular is a real hoot, the Anchorman star doing a perfect job as Joel’s irksome and pesky neighbour.
The comic set-pieces devised are good fun, even if the storytelling is fairly ramshackle. Mila Kunis is left stranded in a role that feels more like a plot mechanism, the actress also saddled with a subplot which feels distracting and tacked on. The film’s strengths are its smart dialogue, enjoyably absurd punch lines and Judge’s cosy style of filmmaking. Extract has a pleasant and understated vibe which should register nicely with those seeking light-hearted cinema of a good quality. Being a Mike Judge film, Extract also fires up some neat observational comedy, albeit this time it isn’t as perceptive as Office Space. The quirky factory setting isn’t as universally familiar as that picture’s faceless cubicles, whilst the characters aren’t as realistically crafted this time around. They’re a reasonable bunch of screen entities to watch, just not as immediately recognisable or grounded as the grumbling paper pushers of his 1998 cult favourite.
At a trim 92 minutes the film is paced sensibly, Judge wrapping the affair up just as it appears to be running out of gas. The story is undeniably low key, but it’s in such unspectacular narratives that Judge seems to operate at his best. Extract is a robust comedy picture and worth seeking out, just don’t expect Office Space 2.
Director: Mike Judge
Cast: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Ben Affleck, Kristen Wiig
Runtime: 92 min