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Extract parodies the same kind of workaday ennui that made Mike Judge's 1999 film Office Space a sleeper hit. This time, however, the setting shifts from the white collar world of cubicle-land to the blue collar factory floor of Reynold's Extract.
The film's not particularly sympathetic protagonist, Joel, is a self-made man whose knack for extracting and bottling the flavorful essence of almonds, cherries, root beer and s'mores has yielded modest success. It also seems to have yielded gallons and gallons of problems.
Running the factory means long hours. And his lonely wife, Suzie, is none to happy about that. If Joel doesn't make it home before Suzie cinches up her sweatpants at 8:00 p.m. each night, he can forget any hope of marital intimacy. That's plot point No. 1, by the way, which sets up the film's three other narrative strands.
Plot point No. 2: One of Joel's "star" employees, a good ol' boy who goes by the moniker Step, finds himself on the receiving end of a projectile after a nasty factory-floor accident. Said projectile leaves him bereft of one testicle and at risk of losing the other.
Plot point No. 3: A scheming professional thief named Cindy reads about Step's accident and learns that the insurance settlement might hit $1 million. In a blink, Cindy and her ample, always-on-display cleavage find work at Reynold's Extract. Her mission is to convince Step to sue Joel for even more money so she can pilfer the proceeds. Oh, and flirt with every male on the premises in the process.
Plot point No. 4: Joel complains perpetually to his bartending pal Dean about his wife's lack of sexual interest. Then he happens to mention Cindy—and the temptation she embodies. But, Joel reasons, he can't cheat on his wife. No problem, Dean says as he pushes a tranquilizer Joel's way. Just hire a gigolo to pose as a pool boy to seduce Suzie. If his wife gives in to temptation, he suggests, so can Joel.
If that sounds like a simple story burdened with unnecessary narrative, well, it is. But that's not all Judge's latest is burdened with.
Several days into her affair with the "pool boy" (whose name is Brad), Suzie has second thoughts. She tells him she still loves her husband and that she wants to make her marriage work. It's "not right," she says. For his part, Joel is horrified when he realizes that he agreed to the whole set-up in a drug-induced haze. He tries to stop it, but he's too late. By the end of the film, we get the sense that Joel, too, wants to try harder to make his marriage work.
Step is initially hesitant when Cindy tries to convince him to file a lawsuit against Reynond's. "I believe what's right is right," he says.
Dean is a New Agey hippie of sorts. He describes himself as an "entrepreneur/spiritualist/healer." He also brags about using the "wisdom of the ancients," which enables him to get stoned while evading hangovers. He calls his drug dealer a shaman.
Cindy unabashedly uses her physical endowments to get men's attention. The opening scene involves her flirting and playing dumb with two guitar salesmen who can't stop looking at her chest. (Her shirt is unbuttoned a long way down, a look she sports, paired with short shorts or miniskirts, for the remainder of the movie.) Joel, Dean and Brian all make approving comments about her physique. In her attempt to seduce Step, she kisses him, then apologizes for arousing him (which is a physical problem for him in the wake of his accident).
Joel, meanwhile, succumbs to temptation and sleeps with Cindy. (We see them kiss passionately and glimpse him in bed alone the next morning, smiling.) And Suzie falls for the gigolo ploy—15 times in three or four days, we hear. Brad, who's something of a simpleton, recounts his exploits to Joel in crude terms. And he asks Joel, twice, for the names of other unhappy housewives.
Suzie is repeatedly described in degrading terms. And quite a bit of dialogue revolves around Dean telling Joel that he has the right to masturbate in his own home. Joel and Dean have a "philosophical" conversation about the vulnerability of a man's testicles. There's talk of a sexually transmitted disease.
We see a piece of machinery hurtle toward Step's crotch in slow motion. After impact, he's seen on a stretcher, and he limps for the remainder of the movie. A number of conversations revolve around the grim details of the damage done. Related, the lawyer Step hires (played by KISS bassist Gene Simmons) repeatedly says that he'll drop the suit if Joel will slam a door on his own testicles.
We see a man's fist about to hit Joel's face. The result is a black eye.
Crude or Profane Language
Five f-words and 25 or so s-words. God's name is abused a dozen times. (About half are paired with "d--n.") Jesus' name is misused four or five times. A factory worker is in a band that bears a crass, profane name. (It references God and includes harsh slang for the male anatomy.) We see the name printed on a T-shirt and hear it spoken. At the top of the list of milder profanities: "a--."
Dialogue often makes light of Step's emasculating injury and includes the most uses of the word testicles (and its inevitable slang synonyms) I've ever heard in a film.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Dean tends bar at an establishment where Joel frequently comes to try to drink his woes away. Dean is also an amateur drug pusher. His misguided effort to "help" Joel includes trying to talk him into taking Xanax. "It makes you feel good," he says, "It works for everything." Joel eventually caves in and takes a pill he thinks is Xanax but turns out to be a horse tranquilizer. Dean also sings the praises of cough syrup with codeine, the ADHD medication Ritalin and the anesthetic known as Special K. It's under the influence of the horse tranquilizer that Joel succumbs to Dean's suggestion about tempting his wife to cheat.
An extended scene involves Dean taking Joel to a marijuana dealer's house where Joel and the dealer are shown inhaling from a massive bong that's about four feet tall. Not surprisingly, Dean, Joel and the dealer all get extremely stoned.
Near the end of the movie, Dean says, "Some people are not meant to do drugs, Joel. I think you're one of those people."
Other Negative Elements
In addition to manipulating Step into his lawsuit against Joel, Cindy steals a Porsche, an expensive guitar and two women's purses.
A subplot played for humor involves Joel and Suzie's neighbor, Nathan. He's an overly earnest man who's always coming over to talk. Joel is increasingly impatient with him, but Suzie positively erupts in an impromptu conversation with Nathan near the end. After repeatedly telling the voluble man to "shut up," he has a heart attack and dies. At his funeral, Suzie jokes that it was the longest time she'd ever seen him keep his mouth shut.
Several characters' racism is evident when they blame a newly hired Hispanic employee for thefts actually committed by Cindy. Joel's right-hand man, Brian, rarely bothers to learn anyone's name.
Writer/producer/director Mike Judge is best known for creating MTV's Beavis and Butt-head and Fox's King of the Hill. Only occasionally does he digress from cartoons and venture into live action.
When he does, he brings his patented penchant for sarcasm, satire, suggestive banter and verbal crudities with him. Those qualities helped propel Office Space to a kind of cult status in the 10 years since its release, despite middling box office returns when it premiered. And they're all very much present here.
"This is vintage Mike Judge," says King of the Hill producer John Altschuler.
The audience I saw the film with seemed to agree. They roared with laughter at wince-inducing jokes about Step's accident and at the convoluted, gigolo-themed storyline.
I suspect Judge's popularity stems in part from his ability to blend ridiculous farce with just enough real-life material that people feel like they can relate. Whether it's a monotone supervisor in Office Space or a manager who "affectionately" refers to all his underlings as "dinkus," something seems to ring true with Judge's fans.
While audiences are busy laughing, however, some pretty destructive messages get shoved into their noggins. It could be argued that this film marginally affirms marriage in its final seconds. Right up until then, however, it's mostly mocked, while prostitution, infidelity and deception get a wink and a nod in the name of comedy. Ditto drug use. Oh, and then there's the hysterical subject of castration. Funny stuff, right?
When it comes to an over-the-top character like Dean (played by Ben Affleck), Judge says, "Dean believes drugs can really solve people's problems. ... If everyone just did things his way, the world would be OK. Obviously that's not true."
Obviously? How can we tell?
Judge continues: "Dean is actually kind of a dangerous friend to have. He can give you bad ideas earnestly and not mean any harm, but convince you that they're good ideas and innocently lead you down the wrong path with no accountability."
The same could be said about Extract.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Jason Bateman as Joel; Kristen Wiig as Suzie; Ben Affleck as Dean; Mila Kunis as Cindy; J.K. Simmons as Brian; Clifton Collins Jr. as Step; Dustin Milligan as Brad; David Koetcher as Nathan; Gene Simmons as Joe Adler
September 4, 2009
December 22, 2009