If it had stayed focused on the factory, the way “Office Space” stays close to the office, Mike Judge’s new film “Extract” would have been a much better movie. There are at least mildly inspired bits about factory politics and infuriating co-workers, etc; Beth Grant’s character, who refuses to work if she sees anyone else doing anything but what she thinks they ought to be doing, is the best part of the movie. But instead, “Extract” embroils itself in an incredibly stupid infidelity plot that is bound for a dead end, reaches it, and then goes in circles for a good half hour before giving up and rolling credits.
Jason Bateman, who plays the factory owner, doesn’t act so much as borrow his notes from “Arrested Development.” Here, like there, he’s pretty sure he’s smarter, handsomer, and more talented than everyone around him; the only sane and reasonable person in a room full of deluded whackos. And here, like there, it eventually becomes clear that this is nothing more than this own delusion. He’s just as crazy and ridiculous as everyone else. It’s a funnier joke in the series, where it has time and room to play itself out on multiple levels.
Bateman confesses to his bartender (played by a very hairy Ben Affleck) that he hasn’t had sex with his wife in a while. And he’s pretty sure (because he’s pathologically narcisstic) that he could have sex with the hot new factory chick, if he wanted to. But he doesn’t want to cheat on his wife, because he loves her, even if she’s eternally in sweatpants. So Bateman and Affleck hatch a plan in which they hire a sexy pool boy to seduce his wife; once she’s cheated on him, then he can do as he pleases, or so the reasoning goes.
If a movie were going to take that kind of idiotic reasoning and emotional immaturity seriously, it would have to go pretty dark places. If Bateman loves his wife enough not to cheat on her, then he ought to be hurt and angry when she cheats on him, even though he facilitated the infidelity. He would be stuck in a moral quagmire, watching everything meaningful evaporate around him, unable to brake the wheels he’s set in motion. But “Extract” doesn’t want to be that kind of movie – it wants to be funny, and light, and satirical. And the only way that works is if we believe these characters are just too dumb to know what they’re doing, too infantile to feel what they ought to be feeling. Moral complexity doesn’t occur among chimps. Or chumps.