A decade ago, the guy who created the animated hit TV shows Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill put out a live-action film that was deemed a box-office disaster by studio standards. Despite it’s disastrous label, the film earned it’s production budget ($10 million) back in its six-week theatrical run, plus a small profit of about $800,000… but no one could have guessed what happened next: the film exploded in popularity once it hit DVD and basic cable and that little film, Office Space, is arguably the biggest cult classic in film history. Now Mike Judge is back, once again mining the workplace for laughs in Extract, a film that targets the laughs at workers of a different collar.
Unlike the mundane inanities that were so perfectly displayed in Office Space, Judge’s new film takes place in a factory, but the pinpoint accuracy of these characters is just as on-target as Judge’s portrayal of white-collar workers in Office Space. While Office Space was a rallying cry for anyone who has worked in an office (and many that haven’t, like me), Extract gives the factory workers of the world something to relate to. I myself worked in a few different factories myself, before taking up my current occupation and, if anything, factory work helped me appreciate the job I have now… because I never want to work in a factory ever again. I can honestly say that I’ve worked with versions of all these characters Judge gives us in my various factory jobs. There’s Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), the overly cocky worker who constantly brags about his prowess at work, claiming he’s the fastest box-stacker around. There’s Rory (T.J. Miller), a forklift operator who’s only working at the extract factory until one of his five bands – one of which is called “God’s Cock” – takes off. Then there’s Mary (the hilarious Beth Grant), the cranky old broad that’s at the end of the assembly line, who’s responsible for starting and stopping the line, and constant complainer about anything and everything. Their boss is Joel Reynold (Jason Bateman) who found a unique way to make extract and started his own business. He seems to have the ideal life, with a successful business and a lovely wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig)… but he has a second-in-command, Brian (J.K. Simmons) who can’t remember any of his employee’s names and one of the most annoying neighbor’s in the world, Nathan (the brilliant David Koechner), a crazy bartender friend Dean (Ben Affleck) and has to put up with the fact that his wife won’t give him any play after 8 PM, which is when the sweatpants go on. Reynold is also trying to oversee General Mills buying out his extract plant when a freak accident that leaves Step ball-less, and a sexy new temp employee Cindy (Mila Kunis) who is working there for shady reasons.
The film is really Office Space for blue-collar America. It portrays the idiosyncracies of factory workers so perfectly, just as he did with office employees in Office Space, and anyone who has EVER worked in a factory can certainly relate to any of these extract-plant characters. Judge has such a natural flair for dialogue, a unique ability to write the way people actual talk – which isn’t as easy as it sounds. As rich as these characters are, the actors that are cast for these characters bring them to life in wonderful ways. Jason Bateman is just perfect for factory boss Joel Reynold. He is one of the best in biz as an everyman and he has some of the best comic timing any actor could wish for. He’s at his best here alongside Ben Affleck as the wacky bartender Dean. Affleck has really been on a roll lately with his roll here and the wonderful State of Play and this might be one of his funniest performances to date. Kristen Wiig is just fine here as Suzie, but she’s really kind of overlooked by the wealth of comedic talent here. Clifton Collins Jr. is wonderful as the “working man” Step, J.K. Simmons is his usual hilarious self as the forgetful second-in-charge Brian, Beth Grant is wonderful as the crotchety old woman Mary, T.J. Miller is great as the alt-punk kid Rory, and David Koechner is brilliant as the annoying neighbor Nathan, who is comparable to Stephen Root’s Milton in Office Space, with his cluelessly annoying approach. Look for a nice cameo turn from KISS frontman Gene Simmons as an ambulance-chasing lawyer and Mila Kunis looks lovely as ever here as Cindy, but she isn’t entirely convincing as this con-woman character, which is part of the problem of Judge’s story.
The film kind of tries to accomplish more than it needs to accomplish. The film starts with Mila Kunis’ Cindy character egging on two guitar salesmen who are drooling all over her before she walks out of the store with the guitar when they go to the back room. Cindy is a vital part of the story, but we really get such a weird, uneven ending for her character. One of the other main drives of the story is Dean convincing Joel to hire a gigolo to seduce his wife so he can cheat on her guilt-free with Cindy, who he’s obviously attracted to. While it works in a very bizarre way, much like most of Office Space, it’s still a little too bizarre here and if the film was more singularly focused, I think it would’ve been more effective. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still damn funny and a picture-perfect portrayal of blue-collar workers, but if Judge would’ve just stuck with that instead of the rest of these sub-plots it would’ve been even funnier.
Extract is another hilarious tale from the wonderful mind of Mike Judge. While it isn’t quite as hilarious as his previous hits Office Space and Idiocracy, but it’s still a wonderful comedy that takes a look at how the rest of us without a cushy office job works.