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After contemplating the plight of the corporate middle manager a decade ago with the wickedly funny Office Space, Mike Judge turns his acerbic eye toward the small business owner with his latest comedy, Extract. Arrested Development's Jason Bateman stars as a Joel Reynold, a successful entrepreneur who built his humble flavoring company into a thriving concern that now stands on the verge of being acquired — for a hefty sum — by breakfast cereal titan General Mills.

But just as Joel is poised to realize his dream of selling his company and retiring early, everything begins to fall apart. A rash of petty robberies creates discord among his employees. An attractive, flirtatious new employee (Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Mila Kunis) leads him to ponder cheating on his aloof, unaffectionate wife. And worst of all, a lawsuit stemming from a freak accident on the floor of his factory threatens to bankrupt the company. The confluence of personal and professional crises soon has Joel on the precipice of disaster.


Scattered throughout Extract are the seeds of a really clever comedy on par with — or even surpassing — the venerable Office Space. The cast is certainly terrific: Bateman is the perfect choice for the beleaguered, cynical yet well-meaning Joel; the always great J.K. Simmons (Burn After Reading) makes a fine counterpoint as his blunt, no-nonsense second-in-command; Kunis is a superb comic femme fatale as a manipulative con artist at the heart of the pivotal lawsuit; legendary KISS frontman Gene Simmons is an inspired choice to play a shady, ambulance-chasing attorney — an occupation he no doubt would have chosen had he not gotten into rock and roll; even the much-maligned Ben Affleck is effective as Dean, a stoner barkeep who dispenses a hazardous combination of bad advice and hallucinogenic drugs on his best friend Joel.


For all its impressive ingredients, Extract makes for a surprisingly tepid dish. Much of the same sly wit and clever characterizations that made Office Space such a delight can be found in this film, but not in amounts great enough to sustain it. Most bothersome about Extract is the fact that Kunis' character, heretofore the catalyst for much of the story's action, essentially disappears for the latter third of the film. Almost as an afterthought, she's tossed a brief epilogue during the closing credits that serves to tie up all the loose ends related to her character. It's emblematic of the movie as a whole.


One aspect of Extract that does pay off is a great subplot involving Dustin Milligan as Brad, an empty-headed gigolo Joel hires as part of a disastrously ill-advised scheme to get his wife Suzie (played by SNL's Kristen Wiig) to cheat on him first — thus clearing the ethical roadblocks (in his mind, at least) for his unimpeded pursuit of Kunis' character. But Brad ends up getting a little too wrapped up in his work, making multiple follow-ups to Suzie and ultimately falling in love with his ''client.'' The "break-up" scene between slow-witted Brad and exasperated Suzie is one of Extract's highlights. rated this film 2 stars.