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Joel (Jason Bateman) lusts after Cindy (Mila Kunis), a con artist posing as a temp worker.
Joel (Jason Bateman) lusts after Cindy (Mila Kunis), a con artist posing as a temp worker.

A missed opportunity for a 'teaching moment' Add to ...

Extract

  • Written and directed by Mike Judge
  • Starring Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons and Mila Kunis
  • Classification: 14A

Mike Judge's new workplace comedy Extract comes a decade after Office Space , a cult favourite. In retrospect, the wry and silly Office Space hit on something fundamental about the absurdities of modern cubicle life.

In his new movie, Judge has changed the workplace to a small owner-operated factory, and this time, the beleaguered everyman hero is the boss, Joel Reynolds (Jason Bateman). Rather than relishing his status as the kind of guy American politicians point to as the backbone of the nation, Joel finds that mid-level success is a dead-end.

He's sick of "baby-sitting" his staff of sorters, bottlers and lift-truck drivers. They include a spiteful senior employee carping about everyone else's laziness (Beth Grant), a would-be heavy-metal rock star (T.J. Miller), and an operations manager who can't be bothered remembering anyone's name (J.K. Simmons).

His home life is even more frustrating. Each night, Joel gets home late from work to his suburban spread, trying to avoid his tenacious bore of a neighbour (David Koechner). As soon as he comes through the door, Joel's wife, Suzie ( Saturday Night Live 's Kristen Wiig, underwritten and under-used) pulls the draw string on her sweatpants. That's the signal that there's no sex again tonight.

Other kinds of pressures are mounting. Food giant General Mills may be interested in buying his operation, but the workers create a chain of accidents that almost neuters one of the dumber sorters, Step (Clifton Collins Jr.). If someone persuades Step to launch a lawsuit, Joel's company is finished. The accident hits the local newspapers, which gains the attention of a sexy con artist, Cindy (Mila Kunis), who applies for a temp job at the factory with a scam in mind. On her first day, she brazenly flirts with Joel, expressing an improbable interest in the world of bottled extracts. He's instantly lust-struck.

Later, Joel confides his fixation with Cindy to his low-life bartender friend, Dean (an unexpectedly funny Ben Affleck, under long hair and a beard). After plying Joel with alcohol and a stupefying pill, Dean convinces his friend to hire a gigolo (a dim but studly landscaper named Brad) to have an affair with Suzie. This will give Joel the moral licence to hit on his hot new employee.

As contrived as this sounds, Bateman has a regular-guy, down-to-earth appeal, but the script is often excessively broad. One scene includes his encounter with a threatening pot dealer and the world's biggest bong. In another, he is confronted by a sleazy extortionate lawyer, overplayed by Kiss front man Gene Simmons.

A larger discomfort with Extract is an ambivalent attitude about comedy and social class. Mocking an officious middle-manager is always fair game; ridiculing blue-collar workers who resent their mindless jobs just feels mean.

At one point, Joel refers to Cindy's sex appeal as "working class" and gets challenged on it by a working-class guy. Embarrassed, Joel amends the adjective to "slutty" and then "nasty." This is what Barack Obama might call a "teaching moment," but Judge lets the opportunity slip away.

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