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Wednesday
Sep022009

Extract

There are a handful of underappreciated comedians in Hollywood, but none more so than Mike Judge. He created the ahead-of-its time cartoon, Beavis and Butt-Head, and helmed two films that reached little audience upon their releases, but have achieved the desirable status of cult classic since then, Idiocracy and Office Space. He is a brilliant man and deserves accolades, but I'm afraid his latest film, Extract, won't be his ticket to superstardom. Though not a terrible movie, it's a flick that you watch and then one week later you forget it even exists.

Jason Bateman plays Joel, the owner of an Extract plant who is looking to retire. Much to his liking, he is being offered a buyout and he plans on taking it, until a freak accident occurs and an employee loses a testicle. Afraid of the financial losses the company will suffer, the offer is put on hold until everything is settled. Meanwhile, Cindy, played by Mila Kunis, learns that if the employee decides to sue, he could win millions of dollars. Being the swindler that she is, she spots an opportunity and begins to "date" him while also taking his place at the company. Upon meeting her, Joel is taken aback by her beauty and immediately has sexual desires, but doesn't want to cheat on his wife, played by Kristen Wiig, despite her unwillingness to have sex with him. With the help of some strong drugs, Joel's bartender friend, Dean, played by Ben Affleck, convinces him to hire a male gigolo to seduce his wife. If she shuns him, great, but if she goes for it, Joel would have no reason not to sleep with Cindy.

Though the story may sound like it has some depth, it's not fleshed out enough to provide for any emotional attachment. Cindy is useless and disappears near the end of the movie with little to no resolution, despite a character breakthrough that isn't warranted due to lack of character development up to that point. The sexual frustration in Joel seems minor in his otherwise healthy relationship with his wife, whom presumably never would have cheated on him had he not hired a prostitute to seduce her. One character not important enough to even mention in the above synopsis works only as a means to an end, inexplicably dying so Joel and his wife would have the chance to make up at his funeral. The story here is severely lacking, with the characters finding themselves in ridiculous scenarios, destitute of any sense of genuine feeling.

Extract has Judge's trademark dry, offbeat sense of humor, but the film's existence is nebulous. In Beavis and Butt-Head, he satirized lethargic teenagers and their ever increasing stupidity, foreshadowing what was to come because, let's face it, teenagers sure aren't getting any smarter. Idiocracy tackled a similar subject, but on a much grander scale, taking a look at our future existence and spoofed our entire culture, warning us of an intelligence downfall that could be looming over the horizon. Judge was obviously going for a satire on the middle class workforce in Extract, but he already accomplished that with his far superior Office Space, and unlike the distinguishable differences in Beavis and Butt-Head and Idiocracy, Extract attempts only to mimic the success of that film. In doing so, it treads the same water, but this time it gets tired and sinks hard.

All of this could be neglected had the film been funny and it is, but inconsistently so. There are brief moments of hilarity with long stretches of nothingness in between and it wears thin. The only character that managed to keep a steady flow of laughs coming is Dean, played merrily by Ben Affleck. Unfortunately, most other characters stand around idly with little to do and most become vexatious by the end.

Judge is a great comic and he uses his keen understanding of society to unrelentingly satirize it in a smart and unique manner, but Extract simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It's only sporadically funny and it makes no point that wasn't previously made in Office Space. Fans will enjoy the oddball humor and be able to see past its numerous weaknesses, but even they will admit it's only a minor entry in Judge's otherwise impressive filmography.

Extract receives 2/5

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