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Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 01:38 pm

Extract details potent laughs

Jason Bateman as Joel and Mila Kunis as Cindy in Extract.

Having delivered a rallying cry for the working man with his cult classic Office Space, director Mike Judge looks at the workplace from the other side of the table with Extract. Jason Bateman stars as Joel, a beleaguered businessman who is about to cash in by selling his extract company to General Mills. However, a workers’ compensation case puts the deal in jeopardy. This only adds to Joel’s frustration as his frigid wife (Kristen Wiig) ignores him, while a hot new temp (Mila Kunis) causes his mind to stray.

Judge’s script is filled with one wry line after another as his humor combines elements of crudity and irony to great effect. While this summer’s The Hangover sported humor of the raucous sort, the laughs here are more subtle, intelligent. Bateman’s deadpan delivery and escalating suffering give us an Everyman to root for, even if he is the boss. His exasperation is palpable and when he finally explodes, it’s a comedic moment that hits pay dirt. Ben Affleck, who is always at his most effective in a supporting role, delivers every time he appears as his stoner pal, so much so that his argument that Zanex is the cure for all that ails you is convincing.

While the film is a bit slight, it effectively taps into frustrations we’ve all felt at the workplace — while delivering potent laughs. The writing and the characters make it work, as does its brisk pacing. Unassuming and sporting a workmanlike execution, this sleeper is the perfect antidote for the summer blockbuster hangover.
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