The cult classic “Office Space” was a delightfully deviant, low-budget comedy that dealt with middle-class malaise in the workplace. Its source of humor ranged the entire spectrum of the subversive, from making fun of the boss in his absence to ripping off the company and eventually burning down the accursed, cubicle-infested building.
The most notorious aspect of the film resided in the clueless, heartless demeanor of Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole), who became a symbol for upper-management superiority and aloofness (“Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too … mmkay?”)
“Extract,” written and directed by “Office Space” and “Beavis and Butthead” creator Mike Judge, essentially flips the scales on “Office Space,” creating a protagonist out of Reynolds Extract Owner/Proprietor Joel (Jason Bateman of the sitcom “Arrested Development”). Once again, Mr. Judge explores the employer/employee dynamic with great success and plenty of off-color humor.
This time around, boss-man Joel is a decent man and involved employer, who spends his time wistfully imagining the day his company will be bought out by a conglomerate so he can retire. While business is good, his home life is one of boredom, the enchanting spark of sex extinguished if Joel does not make it home before his wife (Kristen Wiig of “Saturday Night Live”) tightens the laces on her sweatpants. Jason Bateman is perfectly cast as the bland straight man who may not have a heart of gold, but who usually does the right thing despite the lunacy surrounding him.
That lunacy involves a colorful cast of employees whom, while their quirks are sometimes exaggerated to shake out a laugh, are drawn from a very real template. Anyone who has ever worked a blue-collar job will recognize the pretty, troubled girl (Mila Kunis of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”); the complainer (Beth Grant); the pierced, tattooed metal-head who tries to get everyone to see his band; even the manager who cannot remember the employees’ names (J.K. Simmons’ Brian refers to those beneath him as “dinkus”).
While Joel stresses over an impending lawsuit stemming from a work accident involving the loss of an employees’ testicle (the always engaging Clifton Collins Jr. is grossly underused), his real problems lie at home and with his reliance on terrible advice from his buddy, Marriot Hotel bartender and resident slacker Dean, played by a scruffy Ben Affleck in a very funny supporting role.
“I’m a spiritualist/entrepreneur/healer,” he proclaims, trying to impress Cindy (Ms. Kunis).
Dean’s advice usually involves taking drugs to relieve stress, taking drugs to relieve sexual frustration and hiring a gigolo to see if Dean’s wife will cheat on him. If she does, Dean claims, that frees up any guilt Joel should have if he chooses to sleep with Cindy.
Herein lies the film’s biggest fault: the lack of romantic tension between Joel and Cindy as a result of their minimal screen time together. We get a feel for both characters, separately, but nothing to suggest why Cindy would be attracted to Joel other than to make him her next mark. She is the film’s wild card, and Mr. Judge does not really know what to do with her.
Overall, the film is a success. While not as quotable as “Office Space,” it is often just as funny, and the universal themes are explored with due diligence, often resulting in chaotic hilarity.
Rated R for language, sexual
references and some drug use.