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Review: Extract (2009)

August 9th, 2010

Does Extract stand a chance at getting a laugh out of you?

On a recommendation from my boss, I checked out Mike Judge’s Extract.  I actually was quite jazzed to watch it, as I am a big fan of Jason Bateman and his work on Arrested Development, as well as Judge’s prior workplace comedy.  Office Space was one of the funniest movies of the 1990s and perfectly encapsulated the tedium of cubicle life.  Its cast was very well chosen, featuring an oft-overlooked, likable guy (Ron Livingston) and a beautiful female lead trying to break out of TV (Jennifer Aniston).

Extract has a similar formula, with Bateman and Mila Kunis headlining the cast.  Judge managed to surround Bateman and Kunis with a stellar supporting cast including SNL standout Kristen Wiig, headliner Ben Affleck and top notch character actors JK Simmons and Clifton Collins Jr.  With a great supply of human capital to work with, Judge tried to tap back into the winning formula he struck with Office Space.

Bateman plays Joel, the owner and operator of a flavor extract manufacturing and packaging company.  Although he’s hardly the cog in the wheel that Livingston’s Peter Gibbons was at Inetech, Joel suffers from a sort of middle age malaise.  He’s ready to sell and get out of the extract business, hoping to retire and be able to spend time filling his life with something to enjoy.  Unfortunately, his home life is stale and his friendships consist solely of a relationship with local bartender Dean (Affleck).  When Kunis’ Cindy, a serious bid on the business and various other pratfalls enter his world, Joel’s life gets turned upside down.

Click on through to read my thoughts.

In general, I really don’t know why my boss recommended this movie.  Yes, there are some funny moments — some even “ha ha” funny — but the movie as a whole is a stale retake at Office Space.  To be honest, it’s hard not to simply line up the characters and storyline and find that Office Space was a much better film in every regard.

The similarities in the productions do make Extract seem very formulaic.  While Batemen is good as Joel, his character just isn’t as easy to relate with as was Peter.  Similarly, Kunis’ Cindy earns some laughs but lacks the depth (which wasn’t even that significant) of Aniston’s Joanna.  While Affleck actually really steps up his game and provides his best comedic performance since Chasing Amy in bartender Dean, even his down home funny guy can’t match up with the inventiveness of Diedrich Bader’s neighbor Lawrence.

Bateman has had some great, overlooked comedic roles in Smoking Aces and State of Play. This lead role, however, is pretty forgettable.

Judge also revisits a variant of Stephen Root’s Milton character (a personal favorite, as I have a red Swingline stapler on my desk), with David Koechner delivering a solid and all-around funny performance as annoying Nathan.  Office Space‘s Samir and Mike Bolton (Ajay Naidu and David Herman, respectively) are matched in their hilarity by Beth Grant’s Mary and Javier Gutierrez’ Hector, who play off each other quite well.  Although he’s rather wasted in this film, Clifton Collins Jr delivers, as he always does, as the prideful yet slow Step.  And Gene Simmons actually earns some praise for a multiple scene cameo role.

The storyline formula is a little harder to maintain than simply bringing in a solid cast.  While Office Space spoke to the drudgery of the American cubicle, Extract is set in a small manufacturing business with a person seeking to cash out.  While Sarah Palin might want us to believe that Joe the Plumber is the norm, he’s not and, even if he were, the local business owner is not as common as the office drone.  Additionally, although both plotlines feature some minor malfeasance, Office Space featured light, victimless activities.  Not so in Extract.

The movie also jumps around too much.  While the storyline is secondary to the laughs and the plot is not so complex as to challenge the viewer, it is very hard to gauge the passage of time or get any kind of cue as to how long interactions have been allowed to develop.  In other words, there’s no way to tell (and this is even hinted at in the movie’s dialogue) as to whether the first day of the movie is a week before the ending or a month.  It’s just a bit distracting later on in the movie.

All in all, without spoiling the movie, I can’t recommend it.  It’s a definite rent for a fan of light comedies, but doesn’t fall into the “buy” category alongside Office Space.  You won’t be as disappointed as if you make the mistake of watching Judge’s Idiocracy, but you’re not dealing with a comedy classic here and the movie is not worth a second viewing.  All in all, I give Extract a C at best.  Instead of renting it, consider buying Office Space.

Extract Trailer

Office Space Trailer

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