*** (out of 5)
September 4, 2009
Jason Bateman as JOEL
Mila Kunis as CINDY
Kristen Wiig as SUZIE
Ben Affleck as DEAN
J.K. Simmons as BRIAN
Clifton Collins Jr. as STEP
Dustin Milligan as BRAD
David Koechner as NATHAN
Directed by: Mike Judge
BY KEVIN CARR
After Mike Judge made the quite astute but not infallible “Office Space,” he has had a hard time living up to his own work. His film “Idiocracy,” which I will admit was riddled with flaws, saw the most screwed up release in the history of cinema (outside of a Weinstein film, that is). Now, he’s trying to make good with his fans in the new film “Extract.”
The movie tells the story of Joel (Jason Bateman), a guy who has built an food flavoring business from the ground up. Joel is facing a series of problems in his life, including a frigid-yet-unfaithful wife (Kristen Wiig), a pending lawsuit to his company, a pretty temp (Mila Kunis) who scams anyone she comes in contact with and a slate of dimwitted employees.
I’m reluctant to compare “Extract” to “Office Space,” simply because they are very different movies. However, there is a common ground between them. Both films deal with the humdrum nature of a workplace environment, and they both deal with some extremely bizarre characters. However, the similarities end there. Instead of being a blue-collar version of “Office Space,” “Extract” is a study in how a man’s life can fall apart around him.
Jason Bateman is the anchor to this film, and while there are some very rough patches in the story, he carries things along nicely. Using his affable personality from “Arrested Development” and his bravery at self-deprecating comedy, Bateman is what connected me to the film. He makes some horrendously bad decisions – including tempting his wife with a young gigolo, planning on sleeping with the saucy temp, being too polite to his nosy neighbor and getting into a knock-down-drag-out fight with Gene Simmons about whether or not he should crush his testicles in a door – but he does them with a strange likeability and sympathy.
Helping Bateman along is a pretty solid supporting cast. Mila Kunis is easy on the eyes, but she’s nothing special to the ensemble. Rather, it’s Kristen Wiig as Joel’s wife who lends her understated comedic timing to the mix and David Koechner as the intrusive and irritating next door neighbor that keeps things fresh.
However, the best supporting role of this film has to go to Ben Affleck as Joel’s doped up bartender best friend Dean. Affleck may not be the greatest actor of our day, but in the right role, he shines. The guy can do comedy when he needs to.
As a whole, “Extract” doesn’t always work or flow properly. There’s a randomness about its delivery that holds it back. However, the individual parts can be a lot of fun to watch. I will hand it to Mike Judge in the sense that he takes the characters places I did not expect, and he has the guts to deliver bad taste comedy in a politically incorrect world. He does not sanitize the script, and with all of its warts, it delivers some solid laughs.
Still, I got the sense that Judge wanted to protect his characters a bit too much. He does some outrageous things in the film, but he loses his sense of edginess by softening the blow with other characters’ reactions or outcomes that fit together too perfectly.
Unfortunately, the best moments are not consistent. For all the clever scenes, there are many that just fall flat. “Extract” has some nice elements, but its ultimately forgettable. It might find a life on video, like Judge’s other films, but in the end, this film’s strongest flavor seems to have evaporated away.