Working-Class Zeroes

Mishaps and miscommunication run amuck in Mike Judge's Extract

Extract ***

Opens Friday areawide.

Mike Judge isn't a great director. His previous films, Office Space and Idiocracy, have a pedestrian, amateurish quality that makes them look like high-school projects. But he does have a great ear for dialogue, something that was apparent even in the boneheaded Beavis and Butt Head 'toon he scripted for MTV. His latest film Extract isn't about to go head-to-head with Judd Apatow's latest. But don't dismiss it on that account; it's still a funny, smart comedy.

Inspired by one of his mother's cookie recipes, Joel (Jason Bateman) has turned a vanilla-extract factory into a million-dollar operation despite the fact that his employees are clueless. His manager Brian (J.K. Simmons) can't even recall employees' names and refers to most of them as "dinkus." And despite his wealth, Joel isn't a happy camper. His workers are morons, and by the time he gets home from work each night, his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) has already put on sweats and shows no interest in sex. So he and local sports-bar bartender Dean (Ben Affleck) — a self-styled "entrepreneur, spiritualist and healer" — concoct a plan to send a gigolo over to clean the pool and try to nail Suzie. If she goes for it, Joel figures he has every right to pursue an affair with a hot young temp (Mila Kunis) who just started working at the plant.

Suzie goes for it, and then some. It's not long before the daft pool boy (Dustin Milligan) is making regular visits, even though Joel comes to his senses and tries to call the whole thing off. To make matters worse, an employee injured on the job (Clifton Collins Jr.) has retained a litigious lawyer (Gene Simmons) to sue the company, which means Joel will not be able to sell the place as planned. Bateman and Affleck are perfectly cast as the square and the hippie, and Judge's writing is so strong, it makes up for the fact that the film hits a few lulls and isn't nearly as mean-spirited and dark as the cult hit Office Space. In a summer bereft of "funny people," Extract hits the mark.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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