Let’s start this review with the title. Extract? Really? I thought this was a sci-fi flick walking into the theater. And I admit, I was sort of excited, Jason Bateman in space, bring it on! Let’s face it, I have never been one to harp on titles of movies, but Extract, really? They could have called it Mike Judge’s New Comedy about How Much It Sucks to Be a Boss and it would have earned more cache. Aren’t there people in Hollywood paid to make these creative decisions before they confuse half their target audience into staying home on a Labor Day weekend?
OK, enough carping about the title. Fine, it’s called Extract and it is about, of all things, a boss in a non-descript small town who runs a chemical plant that, yes, makes extracts. Fine, I get it. Let’s carp about other aspects of the movie. First and foremost, Mike, what happened, dude? I thought you were on our team? Office Space defined how I think about work. I had a boss who I called Lumbergh behind his back. Doesn’t matter he was a she, she still ended all of her sentences with “that would be great.” Now Mike, you seem to think that Peter Gibbons is the bad guy and you want an audience to love Lumbergh! The last time America felt sympathetic toward their bosses the steam engine hadn’t been invented. I kept waiting for Terence Powderly to make a PSA during the film, “Now folks you may think your boss is your enemy, but in fact, he can be your best friend.”
In fact, I found this movie’s crass treatment of union organizing mildly offensive. And I don’t even belong to a union! If there is one guy you don’t pick on during a recession, it’s the little guy. Especially now, when we’re in what economists call a “jobless recovery,” which means while the rich are getting richer, the poor are just going to have to suffer for another few years.
Let’s do a quick run through the plot, though. Joel is the owner of an extract plant. One of his employees, Step, loses a testicle due to an on-the-job mishap. Meanwhile, Cindy, a shoplifter/succubus, decides to seduce Step, convince him to sue the company, and ultimately take his money. Final subplot, I promise, after a night of drinking and dosing, Joel decides to hire a gigolo to test his wife’s fidelity. Unfortunately, the wife and Brad, the “pool boy” hit it off. As things collapse around Joel, he must find the necessary self-confidence to put things in order and prove his Bossitude.
I spent too much on this film to dislike it completely and I will admit it did have moments of greatness. No one is more qualified to play a boss working uncomped overtime than Jason Bateman. Likewise, Ben Affleck’s bartender character, Dean was reliably funny.
Yet ultimately, this movie lacked the dimensionality for me to care. The king of quirky comedy, Mike Judge, seemed unable to create any lasting characters, plots, or scenes. The boring factory, boring home, unnamed town, bored wife, and cookie-cutter secondary characters left me with nothing to latch onto. I would write spoiler alert for this next sentence, but who cares? The factory stays open, more extract is produced, and Joel continues to be the boss and earn the most money in the factory. In sum, like the suburban factory itself, I am glad this movie was made, because checking the credits, it employed a bunch of people, but I would be happy to have driven by it on my way to the city. Now let’s hope Lumbergh doesn’t see this review.