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Mike Judge’s Extract captures the factory workplace with an accuracy that can only come from experience. The endless complaining, pettiness and self-importance of the laziest specimens is pure truth. There’s little to like about the extract company from its disastrous opening, a slapstick catastrophe from which one male employee, Step, loses a precious bodily appendage. Much like the program in Office Space to funnel off those “extra pennies,” the pending lawsuit from this accident serves mainly to further add to the already troubling issues of owner Jason Bateman’s life. His wife won’t have sex with him if he home later than 8 pm, he claims, which is when the “sweatpants go on.” He only attempts it once in the movie so we’re left to accept his claim with very little proof.

Dean, his bartender friend and the film’s most likeable character, advises him to pursue an affair with new temp, Cindy, but he feels both guilty and financially exposed to a divorce, as he is near to selling the company to General Mills. This is the movie’s first misstep, attempting to present a sympathetic character who, rather than approach his wife with his dissatisfaction in the marriage, concocts a scheme while under the influence of scotch and horse tranquilizers to have a gigolo seduce her under the porno-movie-guise of being the new pool cleaner.

A number of twists in the film, starting with a con artist pushing Step’s lawsuit, lead Bateman through a whirlwind of self-doubt, frustration and anger at the world collapsing on him. The problem is, as likable an actor as Bateman is, it’s hard to feel much for his Joel, as most of this is his own fault. He wouldn’t be torn up inside over his wife’s affair if he hadn’t set it up himself. The lines between himself and the con artist eventually draw together and he figures out how to solve his financial troubles in what are Mila Kunis’ best moments in the film. But those scenes ring hollow, too, with it being more pit-for-pat with his wife than an honest moment between the two characters.  The light hearted underworld aspects of the film are the kind of thing that the Cohens built their careers around and with which Judge is much less equipped to deal.

Bateman is good in his role and Ben Affleck’s Dean is the highlight of all of his scenes. Kunis gets little to do as Cindy, and her deep moment of change is undercooked. Kristen Wiig’s wife is less explored than Jennifer Aniston’s waitress in Office Space, even if she is one of the better comedic actresses working now. She mostly gets left behind to pick up after Bateman, which makes her character look that much less to blame in the affair. J.K. Simmons does well as Bateman’s sarcastic, dismissive right hand man but always seems cut off before his scenes can begin. His refusal to learn the employees’ names is a good shtick, though. Clifton Collins Jr.’s Step is one of the better portrayals too; a good old boy just trying to adhere to what is a muddy moral code at best. Outside of him the other employees are caricatures, nagging old woman, distracted guy in a band, and Judge’s usual hidden cameo as the rabble rouser with nothing to say to the boss’s face.

The film both is and isn’t a companion piece to Office Space, as it often is made out to be for simply the viewpoint. Where Office Space was about the incompetence of management at motivating the workers, Extract is about worker incompetence’s effect on management. It all comes down to the same thing, though, workplaces are dreary places in which to spend your life, no matter on which side of it you find yourself. 3 stars


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