Posted on Blogcritics.org
Mike Judge has found a lot of success in his time, although lately with the cancellation of King of the Hill and The Goode Family, he’s probably strapping for a real hit. It’s been a while since Office Space became a cult classic, and there are several things in common with that original masterpiece and Judge’s newest film Extract. It’s a story about the average person, the worker bee, and an ordinary life which flips a little upside down. Full of excellent comic actors and dry humor, Extract will amuse … but probably not for long.
Joel (Jason Bateman) owns an extract factory after spending much of his life working to open it, and he’s starting to get tired with his life. There are possible buyers on the horizon and his employees are more trouble than they’re worth, often complaining about one another and squabbling like children. Joel is a good guy at heart, and he leans on his friend Dean (Ben Affleck) to talk about his current problems with his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig). They are hitting a rough spot in their marriage and are no longer sleeping together. When a hot new temp named Cindy (Mila Kunis) starts working at the factory, Dean and Joel think up a trick to play on Suzie.
They plan to send a hot young man Brad (Dustin Milligan) to the house as a ‘pool boy’ and have him seduce Suzie. If she falls for it, then Joel is free to go after Cindy. Keep in mind that Joel is very stoned at the time he makes this decision. A very important twist that Joel is oblivious to is that pretty Cindy is actually a con artist who is trying to convince Joel’s injured employee, Shep (Clifton Collins, Jr.), to sue him and take all their money.
Judge is a master of subtle humor, despite being the mind behind Beavis and Butthead, so this movie falls under that category. It’s not necessarily laugh out loud funny, but it’s entertaining and worth more than a few chuckles. Bateman plays his everyman the same way he does in every film, with dry humor and awkward ‘poor me’ martyrdom. Joel is easy to relate to as a good tempered man just wanting love (lust?), and a purpose in life other than dealing with the mundane. As a main character you care about, he’s a success, if a little prone to being a jerk when on drugs. Affleck is a bright point in the film as the hippie best friend, and Dustin Milligan from 90210 manages to deliver some of the funniest lines as the stupid young gigolo Brad.
Many of the workers or side characters were more annoying than humorous, which is a fine line that Judge always has trouble walking in his other work. When is it too far? Mary (Beth Grant) is too far. She’s worked there 14 years and complains about everything. It was difficult not to wish something very heavy to fall on her head every time she was on screen. While this annoyance was intentional, it quickly moved from tolerable mocking to plain obnoxious.
The problem with the movie is that it is amusing and charming, but not exactly memorable. You might leave the theater smiling, but a few hours later it might be difficult remembering any of the lines or even major plot points. The ending kind of falls flat, however, delivered in the same monotone tongue-in-cheek way the rest of the film is, and therefore it is not as satisfying as audiences desire in a solid modern film. Extract is the kind of movie that might be best on DVD, and after several different viewings when all the smaller lines and performances can be appreciated. On the big screen, it falls short and just comes out an okay comedy for a cloudy day matinee.