On several occasions in his new comedy Extract, writer-director Mike Judge cuts to a simple establishing shot of a sports-bar exterior nestled within the hulking mass of a local Marriott. Every time we see that shot, it means that Extract’s hero, the exasperated owner of a small extract factory, has decided to slink away from his life in defeat. Whenever the shot recurs, the audience feels a little piece of his soul die. Nobody is better at capturing the crushing banality of everyday life than Judge, who in three live-action films has compiled a massive clip reel of suburban despair: In cubicles, on La-Z-Boys, or in their choice of chain eateries, his characters suck down soda from two-liter bottles, order pizza shooters from overeager, flair-flecked waiters, or tune into the ultimate in mind-numbingly lowbrow entertainment, like Ow, My Balls! or the masturbation channel. Judge’s camera just naturally gravitates to the most hilariously base images it can find.
Ten years after Office Space flopped in theaters, only to find the passionate following it deserved down the line, Extract finds Judge returning triumphantly to the workplace comedy. As with Ron Livingston in Office Space and Luke Wilson in Idiocracy, Judge centers the film around a put-upon everyman, played here by Jason Bateman, who watches his small universe collapse at his feet. Though his extract business is successful enough to win him a nice house and a pending takeover offer from General Mills, he’s having problems on two separate fronts. His sexual frustration at home leads him to make the drastic decision—encouraged by his dimwitted bartender (Ben Affleck, in top form)—to hire a gigolo to seduce his wife (Kristen Wiig) so he won’t feel guilty about cheating on her. Bateman is unaware, however, that the object of his desire, a fetching new temp played by Mila Kunis, is actually a con artist using her feminine charms to sabotage his business.
The plotting in Extract is loose even by Judge’s standards, leading to the same third-act problems that plagued Office Space and Idiocracy; in fact, he shows so little interest in tying the plot strands together that a character wonders aloud about an element that never paid off. If he had the option, it seems likely that Judge would just throw together 90 minutes of comic observation and leave it at that. Until then, the impressive sum of domestic and workaday laughs in unruly movies like Extract will have to do.