Review: Extract

Posted on September 8, 2009

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Extract is a film from Mike Judge, who brought us the much-adored Office Space, as well as Beavis and Butt-head, Idiocracy, and King of the Hill. In fact, Extract‘s marketing heavily relied on association with Office Space. Actually, the last three taglines on this page are more accurate and funnier.

Synopsis

In Extract, Jason Bateman plays Joel, a man who put his chemistry degree to work when he figured out a way to keep food flavor extract from evaporating during cooking. He founded his own business to make extracts. He and his wife (Kristen Wiig) are going through a rough patch. His employees aren’t particularly smart, motivated, or organized, but they are loyal. His right-hand man (J.K. Simmons) can’t be bothered to learn the employees’ names. Then three things happen: A big company starts talking about buying the company, an accident at the plant seriously injures an employee (Clifton Collins, Jr.), and a beautiful grifter (Mila Kunis) blows into town in hopes of taking some of the injured employee’s settlement money. Joel’s buddy Dean (Ben Affleck) offers two solutions to Joel’s life problems. Getting stoned, and hiring a gigolo to test the wife’s fidelity.

Pros and Cons

Mike Judge has an eye and ear for the workplace, and he clearly loves his characters – a trait I wish more writers and directors shared. The cast is terrific. I’m a big fan of Jason Bateman. I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live in decades, so Kristen Wiig was a delightful surprise. Clifton Collin, Jr. is one of the finest young character actors we have. Ben Affleck is often at his best when, as here, he can be an actor instead of a movie star. J.K. Simmons surprises me in every film, in a good way.

The film has two problems. First, while Office Space is Mike Judge’s current high-water mark in films, that’s too big a burden for any film too carry. Frankly this film has more in common with King of the Hill than Office Space. So I think a lot of people went into Extract with their expectations too high. Second, this film uses the main trope of all relationship comedies: People who don’t talk to each other. My friend, JD Wiker, pointed out this trope to me years ago. If Joel and his wife just talked to each other about their lives, the whole gigolo/fidelity sub-plot would go away. Since it’s pretty pointless to the film, and does nothing to drive the plot, Mike Judge could have spent more time developing the workplace comedy part of the film.

Stars

On my Netflix scale, I’d give this 3 stars out of 5. I liked it, but I didn’t really like it, and I didn’t love it.

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Posted in: Movies