This is an actual conversation I had about 2 months ago:
How’d your meeting with the boss go?
It went kind of like this:
“You wanted to talk?”
“Take a seat. I’m just not seeing real effort on your part. I mean, you come in here 15 minutes late, leave right at 5:00. I just don’t see that extra commitment.”
“If you want people to stay until 5:30, why don’t you just tell everyone they have to stay until 5:30?”
“It’s about going the extra mile and I’m just not seeing that.”
“So if I sat and stared at my computer for a half hour longer each day, you’d be satisfied?”
And I realized right then that I was having the flair conversation.
The flair conversation happens in one form or another every 6 seconds (too many sources to count verify this). When Mike Judge wrote Office Space, he zeroed in on this and a host of other office phenomena (TPS reports, copy machines, playing Tetris) that thousands of people knew firsthand, but had never had the chance to laugh at. But I don’t have to sell you on Office Space, even my mom, a 20 year veteran of the California State Department of Education loves it.
Mike Judge has done many things but none better than Office Space. Extract is dubbed his “return to the workplace,” but with the caveat that it’s also his switch from showing sympathy to the employee to showing sympathy to the owner. That’s all well and good except I’m not really sure the movie is about the workplace at all. It’s as much about a different staple of the 90s, the suburbs.
Jason Bateman is having marital problems. His successful development of a company that manufactures vanilla extract gave him a nice house in the suburbs where his wife designs coupons while wearing sweats. He hangs out at the local Chotchkies, where Ben Affleck is the bartender. He spends long hours at the factory babysitting a nursery of middle class circus folk. And each time he comes home, he’s hounded to tears by a bald, excessively sociable, neighbor waiting in the driveway (played by, of course, David Koechner) .
If this sounds like a grocery list of 90s suburban existence, then you’re right on board. This ship is not getting out of harbor.
Extract never comes close to another flair conversation. New stereotypes are in full display but they don’t ring true in the same way. This time around we get a redneck factory worker, a Mexican factory worker, a crotchety old lady factory worker, and a metalhead factory worker. It becomes an up-front, only slightly exaggerated satire pretty quick, but where’s the flair? Why do I care about these people? If I’m going to watch a guy get his balls shot off in a freak accident, I feel like I should at least feel bad for the man.
Extract is an easy watch. Most of the humor is below the belt, which seems to be the case with everything these days. It all feels a bit retro, but that seems as much a fall back as a calculated effort. Maybe I shouldn’t be keeping such high standards in this decade of Bruno, Transformers II, and G-Force, but if I have to get excited about Extract, I’m going back to reading. Anything where Ben Affleck’s character is the best part is destined to be a cable sleeper, at best.
Extract plays at the AMC Metreon and AMC Van Ness starting Friday.