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Mike Judge takes his new comedy back to the office.
Jason Bateman and Mila Kunis Star in "Extract."
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $25,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

May 18th, 2009: A comedy that follows the personal and professional problems endured by the owner of a flower-extract plant.

What to Expect: So there's a couple of things going on here. Three, to be precise.

First, there's Mike Judge. Despite having been responsible for not one but two hugely successful animated comedy series ("Beavis & Butthead" and "King of the Hill") and one of the most beloved cult classic films of all time ("Office Space"), he doesn't seem to get much love from Hollywood. "Office Space" itself was initially an underachiever, and didn't get much love from Fox in the way of distribution and publicity. It took word of mouth and several years for the film to become successful. His follow-up film, "Idiocracy," got what seemed like active sabotage from the studio. It was given the absolute minimum theatrical release required to fulfill the contract, and was provided no marketing in the way of trailers or press kits. This film should appear next to the term "dumped" in the Hollywood Slang Dictionary. There was a lot of fairly nasty talk at the time about Fox dumping the film because of its satirical criticism of corporate America, including some directed right at Fox News. Rupert Murdoch holds a grudge, yo. The film got pretty good reviews and has acquired some cult status of its own, but nothing like the following that "Office Space" enjoys. In fact, Judge intended this film to follow up "Office Space," but after the initial failure of that film, the studio wanted something more commercial, so "Extract" was shelved. Until now!

Article continues below

Unfortunately, Judge's luck might not be improving. He has, unsurprisingly, parted ways with Fox and "Extract" is being distributed by Miramax, which also shares a close relationship with Affleck all the way back to "Good Will Hunting." Miramax, so long considered a friend of the independent filmmaker, the auteur writer/director, seems poised to perhaps dump the film themselves. As of this writing, the film is scheduled for a Labor Day release. That weekend is where movies go to die. The good part is that it might not have much competition, but the bad part is that film attendance is very low that weekend no matter what's coming out. Judge's films might not do the bulk of their business in the theaters anyway, so it might not matter, but it seems a shame not to give the film a real fighting chance at theatrical success.

The second thing going on here is Jason Bateman. Now, I first recall Jason Bateman as a teen heartthrob actor from various sitcoms of the 1980s, most notably "Valerie," as well as that fine achievement of cinema, "Teen Wolf Too." He worked continuously after that, but there is absolutely nothing of note on his resume until 2003 when he was cast as the straight man center of the large ensemble cast of a little show called "Arrested Development," which despite being beloved of the geek TV set and drooled over by critics, never got high ratings. It's a miracle that it lasted three seasons, and while it didn't pull huge numbers, it elevated Bateman's cache immediately, and suddenly he's in all kinds of higher-profile, higher-cred films. "Dodgeball," "Hancock," "Juno," "Smokin' Aces," and now "State of Play" is in release. Bateman is hot and will likely only get hotter, especially as plans for an "Arrested Development" film seem to be moving forward on top of the upcoming "Up in the Air" with George Clooney and "The Baster" with Jennifer Aniston.

The third thing here is Ben Affleck. Affleck and Bateman practically have a film partnership going on here, having co-starred in both "Smokin' Aces" and "State of Play." But Affleck's reputation as an actor is at pretty low ebb. He's widely thought of as a man who had a burst of high-profile success and then squandered it with poor film choices, in sharp contrast to his BFF Matt Damon, who had the same burst of success early on but parlayed it into far greater Hollywood clout through smarter choices and more varied roles. Having a phenomenally successful action franchise to his credit doesn't hurt, either. Affleck initially appeared in several Kevin Smith films before he and Damon made their big Oscar-winning splash with 1997's "Good Will Hunting." This netted Affleck some quick high-profile parts in films like "Armageddon" and "Shakespeare in Love." Despite his involvement, neither of those films were real successes for Affleck himself...the former was more a Bruce Willis vehicle and the latter was an Oscar bait film for Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes. Since then, Affleck's appeared in several films that made money but were widely criticized, such as "Pearl Harbor" and "Daredevil," but for the last film of significance that Affleck was involved in, I think we have to go all the way back to 1999's "Dogma." His disastrously public relationship with Jennifer Lopez and the often mind-numbing idiocy of some of his film choices seemed destined to doom Affleck to Has Been City, but in the past few years his career has been showing signs of life. His performance as George Reeves in "Hollywoodland" was praised by critics, and his first directorial effort, "Gone, Baby, Gone" starring brother Casey, wasn't very financially successful but was critically acclaimed.

So now we catch up to these three gentlemen, teaming up for "Extract." Which is about...what, exactly?

Bateman plays the manager of a flavor extract bottling company whose humdrum life is thrown into chaos by a series of misfortunes, including his wife (Kristin Wiig) dating a gigolo and one of his employees (Clifton Collins, Jr.) being injured and then seduced by a con artist into suing him. Affleck plays Bateman's friend, an ambulance-chasing lawyer, and by the look of some of the set pics he's sporting a kind of hippie, Jesus-esque look. The story seems like Judge going back to what made "Office Space" great, namely the immersion in the minutiae of an intensely familiar setting, in this case a blue-collar workplace of the kind that so many of us have found ourselves in, punching a clock. In fact, many things about "Extract" seem similar to "Office Space" from the setting in a workplace to the ensemble cast.

It's very difficult to assess how this film might do. One would think that the success of "Office Space" would help spur interest, but it will only do so if people are aware that it's the same filmmaker. Now, that isn't a problem for big film geeks like me and thee, but for John Q. Moviegoer isn't common knowledge. This will depend hugely on whether or not Miramax shells out any dosh for marketing that identifies the film as coming from Mike Judge, the creator of "Office Space." On the other hand, the film could tank at the theaters and then enjoy the same kinds of underground success that Judge's other films have. On yet another hand, the cast might draw people in, or the film might be lucky enough to acquire sleeper-hit buzz like "Little Miss Sunshine" or "Juno."

This is all about Mike Judge. He's the writer, the director, the muse, the alpha and the omega of this film, and if he's your thing it'll be all good, and if not, well...it won't.

In Conclusion: Mike Judge may have been royally screwed over by Fox twice now, but this film is a Miramax release and let's hope they do a little better with it. The surging and increasingly hot Jason Bateman and the slowly-coming-back Ben Affleck team up and try to recapture some of that "Office Space" magic. A fall release might not be to their advantage, but it might remove other competition and give it a fighting chance.

Similar Titles: Office Space, Idiocracy, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America
September 4th, 2009 (wide)
December 22nd, 2009 (DVD)

Miramax Films

Mike Judge

Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Clifton Collins Jr., Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Dustin Milligan

Total: 10 vote(s).


Click here to view site

Rated R for language, sexual references and some drug use.

91 min





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