Friday, September 4, 2009

Movie Reviews: Should You Go to Work or School Over Labor Day Weekend?


In 1999, writer/director Mike Judge gave us a satirical look at work life in Office Space. While not a box office success, the film became a huge cult classic on video. Now a decade later, Judge brings us another workplace comedy in Extract. Jason Bateman (Juno) plays Joel, the owner of an extract manufacturing plant who's dealing with problems both at work and at home. An accident at the plant throws the staff into turmoil -- at the same time Joel is growing increasingly frustrated by a sexless marriage with his wife, Suzie (Kristin Wiig). When a beautiful con artist (Mila Kunis from Forgetting Sarah Marshall) enters the picture, Joel's personal and professional lives unravel even more.

Sporting a slacker look, Ben Affleck has a hilarious turn as a bartender friend of Joel's -- whose plan to help him sort out his problems backfires big-time. Meanwhile, Bateman and Wiig (Adventureland) deliver more reserved comic performances. In fact, Extract is not a laugh-out-loud movie. But I admittedly giggled through most of it -- and when I wasn't laughing, I still felt a huge smirk on my face. Also stars J.K. Simmons (I Love You, Man) and Clifton Collins, Jr. (Sunshine Cleaning). [Rated R; opens today]

Grade: B

World's Greatest Dad

Robin Williams has proven over and over again that he is actually a great actor -- if given challenging material. And that's exactly what he gets here from writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait (yes, THAT Bobcat). Williams returns to the classroom as another high school English teacher (remember Dead Poet's Society?) -- this time playing Lance, who teaches an unpopular poetry class.

Lance has dreamed of being a rich and famous writer, but has never been published. A single dad, his teenage son Kyle (excellently portrayed by Daryl Sabara) is huge prick who doesn't give his father the time of day. Nor does Kyle's actions make him popular with his high school classmates. Meanwhile, Lance is dating another teacher (Alexie Gilmore), but she doesn't want to get serious. Then, in the wake of a freak accident, he suffers a horrible tragedy that gives him the greatest opportunity of his life. Suddenly, the possibility of all the fame, fortune and popularity he has dreamed of could be his -- but can he live with the untruthful way he got there?

Despite a family friendly title, World's Greatest Dad is actually a very dark adult comedy -- at times funny, but at other times difficult to watch. But I recommend you do watch -- to be reminded that Williams has far more to offer than his sillier roles (e.g., the Night at the Museum series). [Rated R; opens wider today]

Grade: B+

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