Published on August 28th, 2009 | by Greg0
Who’s the Boss? Jason Bateman, Apparently
“Office Space” was a surprise when it came out 10 years ago. Not liking the TV show “Beevis and Butt-Head,” I didn’t have high hopes for my enjoyment of his then newly-released office comedy. Instead I saw what is widely considered to be the definitive movie to see when you’ve had a bad day at work. Mike Judge showed a lot more diversity and sophistication with movie tropes than I could have ever imagined and put together a film of such staying power that 10 years later I’m still recommending to people. Unfortunately, he followed it up with “King of the Hill” and “Idiocracy,” and my interest waned.
The new movie Extract provides new hope for future Mike Judge flicks. Like “Office Space,” Extract details the life of a confused office worker, but this time he’s the boss — running an extract plant in a small suburban town. Sexually frustrated, on the verge of a merger, and grappling with a potential lawsuit and a disgruntled set of employees, Joel, played by Jason Bateman, muddles through his life making bad decision after bad decision.
Mike Judge still has a feel for characters both tedious and true, from the next-door neighbor who won’t go away to the gossiping workers to the jerky and horribly misguiding best friend — finally a role Ben Affleck is perfectly cast in. His characters are neither good nor bad: they’re misguided and flawed, and the protagonist is no exception.
But where Mike Judge excels is his ability to spiral everything out of control. From one small misstep in Joel’s life to one giant leap for idiocracy, a few small problems rapidly become life-wrecking dilemmas.
Somehow, these cascades of bad decisions lack the belly-roaring laughs they should have engendered, but the movie still pulls through with some smiles, guffaws, and chuckles. And in the end it’s not just about the laughs. Mike Judge shows above all that sometimes things have to go wrong to go right — and that spiraling out of control sometimes lets us get the right perspective on what’s important in life.