Andy Bockelman: 'Extract' is a tasteful, slightly bland portrayal of career world

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Andy Bockelman

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press. Contact him at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

Find more columns by Bockelman here.

'Extract'

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars; 92 minutes; Starring: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis and Ben Affleck.

If you thought your job was terrible, try being the boss. One day in the position of the protagonist of "Extract" and you'll be begging for a demotion.

Joel (Jason Bateman) is a regular upper-middle class guy with more than the regular amount of hassles. Besides owning and operating the artificial flavoring factory Reyold's Extract with a lazy, bickering staff, he also has to deal with an unbearable next-door neighbor (David Koechner) and a frigid wife (Kristen Wiig).

His only escape is at the local watering hole where his best friend Dean (Ben Affleck) tends bar, but even that doesn't solve all his problems. To make matters worse, an on-site accident could mean a lawsuit that destroys the company.

But the bleakness of Joel's depressing life may be lifting when he meets the factory's latest hire (Mila Kunis), who seems unusually interested in him. The only problem is how to cheat on his wife without feeling guilty, but his pal Dean has a simple plan to work everything out.

Of course, do you really want to trust a guy who pops horse tranquilizers?

Bateman is fine casting as an average Joe - or rather, average Joel - whose workaday plight is that of every businessman. With a few exceptions, since not too many people consider flavor production to be a hobby.

Kunis is cute but dubious as new worker Cindy who's actually a drifter looking to cash in on the incident involving an errant pressure valve and the genitals of an employee (Clifton Collins Jr.). Wiig is also amusing as Joel's frustrated, work-at-home spouse, Suzie - drawstring sweatpants never looked so forbidding.

For all his bluster, Affleck has none of that comic charm in his role as the quintessential idiot best friend, though he has a few good lines and this is probably the only chance to see him look like a caveman. Aside from Kiss lead singer Gene Simmons' short stint as the demonic shyster who takes on the frivolous lawsuit, most of the real humor comes from the factory floor.

J.K. Simmons leads the way as Joel's fellow manager Brian, who refers to all workers as "Dinkus," but there's just as much truth in the lower level employees, including Beth Grant, T.J. Miller and the film's writer/director, Mike Judge.

Coming from the creator of the work comedy "Office Space," the newest from Judge feels a lot more like a lengthy sitcom than a movie. Sharing the irreverence of "Beavis and Butt-head" and the conventional wisdom of "King of the Hill," the movie has a dry tone that prevents it from being acutely shocking.

And this is a benefit.

Holding back some of the more pointed jokes - such as Grant's distaste for the Hispanic members of the company - is a step in the right direction without the unpleasant pretenses of political correctness or timidity. Although there are few laugh-out-loud moments, the story provides a solid, watchable narrative that, while never really taking full effect, is by no means boring.

Since "Office Space" is considered a cult classic 10 years after the fact, maybe "Extract" will be better appreciated in 2019.

For now, it's more like the product put out by Reynold's: tasty, with little nutritional value and no substitute for the real thing but harmless enough.

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