by Mel Valentin
Writer-director Mike Judge is best known for his successful, recently cancelled, red-state animated comedy for the FOX network, "King of the Hill" (it ran for 252 episodes), "Office Space," a corporate satire, and the late, not-so-lamented "Beavis and Butthead" (which ran on MTV more than a decade ago). Despite a limited release, critics and his fans responded favorably to Judge’s future-set comedy, "Idiocracy," three years ago. Judge’s latest film, "Extract," is another workplace comedy, but retains little of the satirical edge that made "Office Space" a hit with critics and audiences a decade ago. Scattershot, uneven, and unfocused, "Extract" will disappoint Judge’s fans, especially those who consider "Office Space" a modern classic.Extract centers on Joel (Jason Bateman), the hapless owner of an independent extract manufacturer in Texas. Along with Brian (J.K. Simmons), his all-around finance and employment guy, Joel keeps a watchful eye on the assembly line. Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), a longtime employee, hopes to get promoted to line manager. Rory (T.J. Miller), the heavily tattooed, pierced forklift operator, spends most of his time talking up his grind-core band, “God’s Cock,” to disinterested fellow employees. Other employees include two older women who spend most of their time complaining and two new hires, Hector (Javier Gutiérrez) and Victor (Lamberto Gutierrez), who don’t speak English.
"Short on blunts and balls, long on bland and blander."
Joel’s home life centers on sex or rather the lack thereof. His wife, Suzie (Kristen Wiig), a graphic designer, shows little interest in physical intimacy, using the 8:00 p.m. rule (if Joel’s not home by then, her sweatpants come on) as a barrier to sex. Joel’s best friend, bartender, and therapist, Dean (Ben Affleck), consistently offers Joel the worst personal advice (and the occasional illicitly obtained prescription drug). Joel sees an out when General Mills expresses interest in purchasing his company, but when Step loses a testicle (the other’s hanging by a thread) to a freak industrial accident, Joel’s future darkens. A new temp, Cindy (Mila Kunis), offers Joel a way to satiate his sexual frustration, but to clear a guilty conscience, he hires Brad (Dustin Milligan), an intellect-challenged gigolo to seduce his wife.
Not surprisingly, Joel’s plans go (mildly) awry and he learns a few obvious life lessons along the way to enlightenment. Step hires an ambulance chaser, Joe Adler (Gene Simmons, in scenery-chewing mode), who advertises on bus benches and crude television ads. Cindy isn’t who Joel thinks she is and despite all evidence to the contrary, Joel continues to listen to Dean’s advice. Joel’s intrusive neighbor, Nathan (David Koechner), also adds to what turns out to be bland mix of mild satire, verbal humor (less than you’d expect), and some minor physical comedy, and a suburban, upper-middle class angst-focused storyline that flatlines well before the end credits arrive.
Surprisingly, Extract contains few laugh-out-loud moments. If, however, Extract proves anything, it’s that you can go far (and build good will) with balls- and blunts-oriented humor. The best (and by “best,” laughs-per-minute provides the standard) scenes in Extract center on below-the-belt humor (literally), first with Step’s unfortunate accident, a confluence of unlikely events that spell doom for part of his manhood and a paranoid-prone Joel smoking a four-foot long bong that will remind some moviegoers of Cheech and Chong’s finer moments (and yes, they had them). For other laughs, Judge depends on working-class caricatures (less humorous than he imagined), the obnoxious neighbor bit (which gets old fast), and the moronic Brad character (because stupid is always funny, until it isn’t).Where Judge succeeded (“succeeded” being a relative term) is in the casting. Bateman makes his slightly reprehensible, bland character watchable for 90 minutes, but it’s Affleck, almost unrecognizable in long hair and a beard, that provides an off-center spark any time he appears on screen. Kristen Wiig and Mila Kunis, however, don’t fare as well. Judge gives Wiig and her the obligatory blow-up scene to show some range and depth. Judge wastes Kunis in an underwritten, underdeveloped. Kunis honed her comedic timing on "That ‘70s Show," but only uses that timing in one or two scenes. Ultimately, "Extract" is lesser than the sum of its moving parts, better seen on DVD or cable than theatrically where Judge’s scattershot humor and uninspired direction won’t provide value for your entertainment dollar.
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originally posted: 09/04/09 18:54:14