We’re a long way from Beavis and Butt-Head. Mainstream viewers embraced Mike Judge’s King of the Hill, yet his edgier side—as a hater of banality and idiot culture—found expression in some ace film satires. Extract, for all its surface reminders of Judge’s 1999 cult hit, Office Space (it’s set around a suburban bottling plant), shows its maker taking the smallest step toward lesser comic matters of infidelity and bong abuse. It feels slightly beneath him.
That’s not to say you should skip it. Likable factory owner Joel (Bateman) goes from being the kind of guy who whines about his wife donning mood-killing sweatpants into an unusually liberated protagonist. Emboldened by his doper bartender buddy (Affleck, excellent in support), Joel hooks up his unsuspecting bride with a gigolo—bad idea—while he uneasily pursues Cindy (Kunis), a busty, gold-digging temp at his extract plant. Judge has assembled a slyly adventurous cast, and even though you’ve seen these plot machinations before, they move along briskly.
But all it takes is a hint of Judge’s darker anticorporate instincts to get you hungry for a tougher movie. Gene Simmons, more famous these days as a ravenous self-promoter than as a member of Kiss, plays a malevolent attorney ready to ride a workplace accident to glory; you instantly want more of him. (Testicular injury becomes, in his words, a game of “superball.”) Judge has long been unafraid to court such basic instincts; Extract mostly has its writer-director turning milder. Settle down, Beavis? Let’s hope not.