Ben Affleck plays Ernie Kovacs to Jason Bateman's Jack Lemmon in Mike Judge's retro "Extract"
Mike Judge's third film, "Extract," is something of a willful departure from his previous comedy triumphs - 1999's "Office Space," a comic tonic for anyone who despises workplace authority (count me in), and 2006's "Idiocracy," an aggressively subversive gift for those of us made impatient with the stupidity that's encouraged and rewarded by the people who run the country (I'm in again). I like the way Judge thinks.
"Extract" is no less angry but its relatively sunny retro quality is likely to throw off people, even those who are paid to be observant and astute - yes, the critics.
Watching star Jason Bateman as the befuddled owner of an flavor extract plant, trying to juggle disgruntled workers, a disinterested wife, a tempting new employee, the promising sale of his company and a potential lawsuit, I was transported easily back to the 1960s when Jack Lemmon would inarguably have been its star.
"Extract" is a sex comedy, circa 1964 (not 2009), a film that, one day, will make a nifty double-bill with Lemmon's "Good Neighbor Sam," if some resourceful rep house programmer gets the idea.
Instead of Dorothy Provine and Romy Schneider as the put-upon hero's wife and sex fantasy, respectively, we get Kristen Wiig and Mila Kunis driving Bateman to comic distraction in different ways. David Koechner steals scenes as the neighbor from suburban hell (Robert Q. Lewis had the role in "Sam"), and Ben Affleck is something of a scruffy revelation, playing Ernie Kovacs to Bateman's Lemmon, always ready to offer unsolicited, untrustworthy advice. Affleck is a welcome presence whenever he's on screen - when he's off, you miss him - and his scenes with Bateman have the natural ping-pong rhythm of buddies bonding.
Such modern supporting stalwarts as J.K. Simmons, Beth Grant and Clifton Collins, Jr. add to the pleasing ensemble.
"Extract" probably won't win Judge any new fans - and may disappoint the ones he already has - but it's an accomplished, soothing reminder of a time when sex comedies were ... innocent.
Lemmon as good neighbor Sam