Jerry Seinfeld once described coworkers as-- and I'm paraphrasing-- just a bunch of people who filled out the same job application that you did.
Of course, many of us have formed our greatest friendships through the workplace. But as Mike Judge brilliantly depicted in his insanely quotable, cult classic Office Space, most of the time we're basically stuck working alongside people whom we'd normally avoid in our daily lives.
The same can be said for neighbors as we're never quite sure exactly with whom we'll be sharing a fence, garbage collecting duty, or fake small talk when we sign on that dotted real estate line.
Overall, we're slaves to chance, luck, and proximity, which not only finds us surrounded by a random group at work or at home but has similarly lent a hand deciding the district we'll end up in for K-12 public school, which team we'll support in the playoffs, and whom we'll marry as well.
While Judge's brilliant Office Space is usually labeled a “workplace comedy,” he manages to touch on a few of those same issues of proximity and chance throughout. This is especially true whether it's in scenes wherein we worry that Ron Livingston's girlfriend Jennifer Aniston had dated his “pig of a boss” or marveling that Livingston would be friends with a hilarious, low-brow neighbor whose greatest ambition if he had a million dollars would be to do “two chicks at the same time.”
Following Space, Judge stumbled quite a bit with the disastrous Idiocracy, which was a much funnier idea on paper than it was onscreen in anything other than a short SNL style skit, which would've better suited the material, especially when factoring in that SNL alumni Maya Rudolph was one of its main stars.
However in 2009, Mike Jude returned with a movie that could be a distant relative of Office Space. Although it's nowhere near as laugh-out-loud hilarious as the one released ten years ago, it still culls comedy out of relatable situations involving impossible coworkers and overattentive neighbors.
Additionally, this time around, a more mature feel permeates throughout as though Extract was something he'd collaborated on with The Squid and the Whale's writer/director Noah Baumbach.
Yet the resulting and surprisingly overlooked comedy Extract is one that puts Baumbach's angst-filled oddities like Margot at the Wedding to shame. Far more importantly, it also stays true to exactly why we cheered for the nerds beating the hell out of a fax machine or looking up money laundering in the dictionary as Judge fills what could be fairly typical indie fodder with a comedic rogue's gallery of Office Space-like characters.
Re-teaming with his Juno co-star J.K. Simmons, Jason Bateman plays our frustrated lead. Despite the fact that the former bartender is financially successful running his own extract factory, driving a BMW, and living in a gorgeous home with his wife Kristen Wiig (SNL, Adventureland, Whip It, Ghost Town), he's personally dissatisfied by the dull sameness and demands that go along with being as Ben Folds dubbed, "male, middle class and white."
Hoping to unload his factory to General Mills to break up the daily monotony of trying to figure out exactly which “dinkus” employee his second-in-command Simmons is talking about or settling petty worker disputes, when we first encounter Bateman's Joel, sexual frustration seems to be his chief complaint.
With the unbelievable yet hilarious hurdle of his pushy, insistent neighbor Nathan (actor David Koechner essentially playing a grown up version of Dennis the Menace) flagging him down with chatter as soon as his car turns down the street, Joel is denied conjugal visits with his equally bored coupon designer wife whose eight o'clock sweatpants rule and Dancing With the Stars devotion has closed his bedroom door for months.
When Mila Kunis's beautiful young scheming con-woman hears about the possible settlement owed to one of Joel's Keystone Kops assembling line workers following a freak accident, she becomes not just Joel's newest employee but also one major flirtatious temptation.
Loyal and unwilling to cheat on the wife he loves but who has become the participant in what he worries is a “brother/sister” relationship, Joel finds himself agreeing to the most outrageous of plans when his best friend and old bartending buddy (an unrecognizable Ben Affleck) plays Dr. Feelgood by serving him an outrageous mix of prescription medication and alcohol.
Under the influence, Joel and Affleck's Dean decide to remove the guilt of Joel's lust for Kunis by hiring a young but extraordinarily dumb landscaper as a gigolo to seduce his wife beforehand so she'll be the one to break the marriage vows first.
It's a similar set-up to the one in the underrated dark UK comedy The Leading Man with Jon Bon Jovi. Yet in Extract Judge is always in comedic control of the taboo turn of events in what could've easily become a despicable plot sent down the Farrelly Brothers rabbit hole of scatological gags or a weak twenty-first century spin on '70s sex comedies like 10.
Playing it purely for the sake of laughter rooted in identifiable truths (raised to a more ridiculous level) and also withholding one key plot point that goes against our earlier expectations, Judge doesn't let any of his characters off the hook... yet somehow, he manages to keep us helplessly hooked at the exact same time.
Similar to Office Space, which was incidentally one of the first DVDs I ever purchased, the technically impressive Miramax Blu-ray transfer of Extract, makes me think that it's the type of movie that will play much better at home. Just like Space, the humor will not age along with Judge's purposely exaggerated yet uniformly intelligent take on workplace and relationship comedy from neighbors to spouses.
Of course, it's safe to say that it won't equal the iconic pop culture level that Office Space has reached in our society. Although, when you watch Extract and think back on Office Space, you may realize just how accessible, universal, and situational his comedy was from the start. In other words, Judge's impact on work-centric TV shows including The Office and 30 Rock cannot be underestimated.
And actually, the success of Space necessitated him to dig a little deeper than he had before yet luckily for audiences, he didn't go as far out on a limb as he had with Idiocracy. Yes, Judge returned to his roots but he moved beyond work to explore the other levels of Seinfeld's law of irrational proximity.
In Extract, he addresses not just the power dynamic of marriage but our second careers as neighbors trying to avoid our second bosses like Nathan who have turned our homes into a decidedly different style of cubicle life ready for laughter. So don't use the "jump to conclusions mat" from Office Space; pick up Extract and make sure, like Office's Livingston, that you "get the memo" on Mike Judge.
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FTC Disclosure: To extract my thoughts about Extract, I received a review copy of Extract from Miramax Films and Buena Vista Home Entertainment, per standard critical practice.