Extract, the latest film from cult director Mike Judge, is another absurd look at everyday life similar to his previous directorial efforts (Office Space and the criminally underrated Idiocracy)—only despite a promising set-up, this time the laughs are nowhere to be found.
Judge’s satirical pen has always been his trademark—even with his TV series Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill. His live-action films, especially Office Space, have some painfully funny scenes. Even moments in Idiocracy were perfectly executed, showing humans’ (or Americans’) obsession with money and reality TV. Extract, by contrast, can only be described as a very vanilla experience. Many of the storylines have little flavor to them, and the sluggish plotting and dreadful editing kills the actors’ comic timing.
Joel Reynold (Jason Bateman) is on the verge of selling an extract factory that he’s built from the ground up, in order to retire early. When Step (Clifton Collins, Jr.) gets injured on the job, a wrench gets thrown into Joel’s sale, as Step attempts to file a lawsuit against the factory. Meanwhile, a new intern is hired (a scantily-clad Mila Kunis) and Joel begins to feel an urge to pursue her. As Joel’s marriage to Suzie (Kirsten Wiig, in a throwaway role) needs some spicing up, but Suzie hasn’t been in the mood for romance since she’s started working from home as a coupon designer. Rather than talking with his wife about this concern, Joel begins taking advice from a friend, Dean (Ben Affleck, sporting his best caveman look) a laidback hotel bartender, who offers to help Joel score with Cindy. In what turns out to be the movie’s only memorable scene, Joel and Dean go to a friend of Dean’s, Willie (scene-stealer Matt Schulze), who offers Joel a quick lesson on working a three-foot bong. Judge nails the mood and off-kilter sensibility of being in a strange situation in a stranger’s home.
To make matters worse for Joel, Cindy has a hidden agenda. It’s clear early on what she’s after, but there is little explanation as to why. Kunis, playing up her massive brown eyes and cleavage, doesn’t have much to do other than to flirt with men to make them trip over their words just for a chance to be with her. Judge has never written women’s roles well (Jennifer Aniston and Maya Rudolph previously assuming leading female roles in his films), so it’s no surprise that Kunis and Wiig haven’t been given much to work with.
Gene Simmons, from the rock group Kiss, shows up as an attorney in an excruciating sequence. Simmons repeatedly tells Joel to put his testicles in the door so he can slam the door shut on them in order to get justice for his client. This tiresome scene was not only unfunny, but it was cringe-inducing to watch Simmons yell and become a paper-thin caricature of a loudmouth attorney. Bateman’s look of boredom says it all.
In another scene, where infidelity is in question, Joel seems to know the answer but we as an audience are still wondering if there could be a colossal mix-up. Moments later, Judge quickly clears everything up, leaving no room for payoff down the road.
Other minor characters appear in Extract, each character managing to do or say something incredibly stupid—including Joel, who goes down a strange path that leaves us wondering, where do we go from here and what does this have to do with anything? As a whole, Extract falls flat, proving that less is more—even for a film that still clocks in just around 90 minutes. Extract does have an ending as unexpected as any film of the year so far, but even if you find yourself laughing at the end, you may still ask, “What was the point?”
Jim Brunzell III (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes on film for the Daily Planet and hosts KFAI’s Movie Talk.
|Support people-powered non-profit journalism! Volunteer, contribute news, or become a member to keep the Daily Planet in orbit.|