Extract (***)

Posted on September 5th, 2009 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy
Sympathy for the Bossman

Sympathy for the Bossman

When we heard that Mike Judge had a new movie coming out, we knew it was a must see for us on opening weekend.  His previous films Office Space and Idiocracy are considered to be works of genius in our house, even though it took us a while to discover and appreciate the masterpiece-i-ness of them both.  But we now know and love them, and regularly quote both on a daily basis.

For those unfamiliar, Office Space told the story of downtrodden workplace drones who rise up to throw off the shackles of their e-dentured servitude  and stick it to the man, while Idiocracy tells the story of the evolutionary decline of mankind into mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, mono-syllabic morons.

In counterpoint to those films (particularly Office Space), Extract tells the story from the perspective of “the man”.  Jason Bateman plays Joel, who is the owner of a successful food flavoring extract company.  While he was in college he developed a unique way of creating extracts that retain their flavor when heated, leading to tastier results.  Through years of hard work he has parlayed his breakthrough into a moderately large factory, which he runs from his office overlooking the shop floor.  He’s so successful that General Foods is sniffing around and thinking about buying him out lock, stock, and barrel, which would allow Joel to retire a relatively wealthy man.

However, even with his professional success, Joel is not happy.  He and his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) have drifted apart, and Joel finds himself lusting after the flirty new company employee Cindy (Mila Kunis) who seems to be fascinated by the world of flavoring extracts.  But, Joel is honorable and can’t bring himself to be unfaithful, so his spacy bartender friend Dean (Ben Affleck) suggests that he secretly hire a gigolo to seduce his own wife.  If she goes for it, then Joel is then morally free to also cheat, and if she doesn’t go for it then he’s learned a valuable lesson about his wife’s fidelity.  So, in a fit of chemically-enhanced miscalculation, Joel hires the himbo gigolo to “clean his pool”.

And then – everything goes wrong for Joel.  His wife Suzie jumps at the chance to jump the new pool guy’s bones, Joel’s Idiocracy-like workers perform a ballet of OSHA violations that result in a sprung bolt performing a half-masculation on his floor supervisor Step (Clifton Collins, Jr.), who decides to sue big, which scares General Foods into delaying their buyout until the lawsuit is settled.  Add to that the fact that Cindy, the cute new employee, is also a sociopathic grifter who is pilfering the purses of her workmates while she dates Step and pushes him to sue for bigger money (which she presumably plans to get her hands on).

jim-adler

Jim Adler, the Texas Hammer!

To help Step score the big civil case win, Cindy hires bombastic lawyer Joe Adler (Gene Simmons – yes, *that* Gene Simmons) after seeing his number painted on the back of a bus stop.  As an aside for those of you not from Texas, “Joe Adler” appears to be loosely based on real-life, bombastic lawyer Jim Adler, self-described as “The Texas Hammer”.  The picture of him to the right is from his web site.

And to top it all off, Joel’s ungrateful and woefully ignorant employees think that they’re entitled to some of the money they assume he’s about to make by selling to General Foods, and decide to stage a walkout if they don’t get stock options prior to the deal.

So, here’s a man who had it all, built a company using his own brains and hard work, beautiful wife, nice house, and a lottery-sized buyout coming, and early retirement while he’s still young enough to enjoy it.  But then it all starts falling apart.

Suffice it to say that, by the end, things get wrapped up pretty satisfactorily.  The acting and directing are solid, and the script is pretty funny.  There isn’t a huge message being delivered in this film, unlike Idiocracy, but it’s a good message – don’t sacrifice the truly important things in life in the pursuit of “success”.  Success is happiness, not wealth or material things. 

The other message is that, while blue-collar types might not realize it, in many (if not most) cases the bosses that they like to insult and ridicule are their bosses because of hard work and smarts, not because of who they know or because they got lucky.  Hollywood has a tendency to demonize bosses, and it’s refreshing to see a film where a business owner is shown as a sympathetic character instead of a money-grubbing soul-sucker.  In the film you can see that Joel cares about his employees, he strives to run a safe plant, he encourages his employees to improve their positions, and he really does want to make the best darn extracts that he can.

So, while I’d put this as Mike Judge’s third best film, that’s still a big compliment.

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