Extract Review


Jason Bateman as Joel
Mila Kunis as Cindy
Kristen Wiig as Suzie
Ben Affleck as Dean
J.K. Simmons as Brian
Clifton Collins Jr. as Step
Dustin Milligan as Brad
David Koechner as Nathan
Beth Grant as Mary
T.J. Miller as Rory
Javier Gutiérrez as Hector
Lidia Porto as Gabriella
Gene Simmons as Joe Adler
Matt Schulze as Willie
Lamberto Gutierrez as Victor

Directed by Mike Judge


The mixture of offbeat characters with mostly believable situations makes “Extract” another solid bit of social commentary by Mike Judge, though the strange premise may not be quite as immediate or accessible as previous work.

Joel Reynold (Jason Bateman), founder and owner of Reynold Extracts is frustrated. If he’s not having enough problems at the factory with an injured worker possibly suing the company, then the fact that he hasn’t slept with his wife (Kristen Wiig) in months also has him frustrated in a different way. When he meets the pretty new temp Cindy (Mila Kunis), Joel’s slacker bartender friend Dean (Ben Affleck) hatches an elaborate scheme to make it okay for Joel to cheat on his wife with her. Unfortunately, Joel goes along with that scheme, just making matters worse.

The significance of “Beavis and Butthead” creator Mike Judge returning to the workplace after celebrating the white collar worker with the cult comedy classic “Office Space” ten years ago has been well-documented. This time around, Judge is looking at things from the perspective of management, in this case Jason Bateman’s Joel Reynold, who attained success with a formula for flavored extracts that he’s turned into a successful business. Trying to get the factory workers to do their jobs is another story, something that leads to a disaster at the plant just as he’s about to meet with prospective buyers from General Mills.

While the story’s setting might not gel as well with anyone who has never worked in a factory, deeming this a workplace comedy is somewhat of a red herring, and it seems somewhat unfair that the movie will immediately be compared to “Office Space” (even by this reviewer.) At its core, “Extract” owes more to biblical tales of tragic heroes forced to go on journeys of self-discovery, finding humor in darker places, more in the vein of some of the Coen Brothers’ work than the typical low-brow situational comedy. In this case, the story unravels out of Joel’s frustration with not being able to sleep with his wife, played by Kristen Wiig, and how that affects his ability to run his company. Things get even stranger when his best friend Dean (Ben Affleck) comes up with a crazy scheme to hire a good-looking airhead gigolo to try to seduce his wife, the idea being that her sleeping with “the pool boy” would give Joel the right to make a move on the factory’s pretty new temp, Cyndi (Mila Kunis). As expected, things go awry in ways none of them could ever imagine. Even by Judge’s standards, it’s a strange premise for a comedy, one that sometimes is so rooted in truths that one is sometimes unsure whether it’s okay to laugh.

Even so, fans of “Arrested Development” will immediately appreciate what a perfect vehicle the movie is for Jason Bateman, who is just as good at playing a nice guy who you can root for despite his questionable decisions, as he does a wiseass sidekick. Because of this, Bateman is able to keep the tone constant through all its ups and downs. By comparison, neither Mila Kunis nor Kristen Wiig are playing roles that don’t fit into their normal models, though at least Wiig gets to deliver one of the funniest tirades you’ll see all year towards the end.

From the opening scene of Mila Kunis conning two dumb local music store clerks out of an expensive guitar, we’re quickly reminded how good Judge is at poking fun at real-life people in familiar situations with a sense of humor that’s never too smart nor too dumb for the room. Like much of Judge’s previous work, the movie is as much about these wacky characters surrounding our protagonist, from his befuddled right-hand man (J.K. Simmons) or David Koechner’s annoying neighbor who won’t stop talking and could possibly be related to Steven Root’s chronic whipping boy in “Office Space.” While he might seem like a throwaway character, his subplot is really the one that pays off in the biggest possible way. Then there’s Dustin Milligan as the paid gigolo, his lifeguard good looks counter-balanced with a “Bill and Ted” level of dumbness that’s even funnier when his vapid looks are scored with a romantic piano theme. Same goes for Matt Schultze, who is hilarious in a paranoid pot-smoking sequence, and rocker Gene Simmons who gives the funniest performance of the movie as a shyster TV lawyer whose hair threatens to upstage his over-the-top delivery.

Like “Office Space,” the movie sometimes veers dangerously close to merely being a series of vignettes as Joel interacts with all these characters, and some of the recurring bits aren’t that funny like the older woman at the factory who is constantly complaining about the Hispanic newbie. All the various subplots do eventually come together in a generally credible and satisfying manner, so you do end up walking away more enlightened than befuddled by the strange overall premise.

The Bottom Line:
Mike Judge proves once again that few can top him when it comes to making cathartic social commentary about the working class, although some of the stranger story element keep “Extract” from being nearly as immediate or funny as “Office Space.”