STARRING Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, David Koechner, J.K. Simmons WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Mike Judge MPAA RATING Rated R RUNNING TIME 91 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Miramax
From the man who created "Beavis & Butthead," "King of the Hill" and "Office Space," not to mention the sporadically brilliant, sporadically not "Idiocracy," the last thing one would ever expect is normal.
"Extract" is normal.
This is not to say that "Extract" is a bad film, not by any means. In fact, of all the previously mentioned projects "Extract" does most resemble Judge's "Office Space," a film that died quickly at the box-office but became a cult fave on home video.
In "Office Space," Judge planted semi-normal characters that might be found in virtually any cookie-cutter office across the country and mixed in a few quirky gems into an ever so slightly exaggerated story of life in cubicle hell. In "Extract," Judge enters a factory of malcontents with a touch of corporate greed and that old stand-by idea of "sticking it to the man."
While the final result isn't anywhere near as satisfying nor consistent as Judge's "Office Space," it's infinitely more inviting and entertaining than "Idiocracy," a film that pleased a hardcore few but left most scratching their heads going "What the heck was that?"
In "Extract," Joel (Jason Bateman) is the workaholic owner of Reynold's Extracts, a wildly successful extract manufacturer that has apparently caught the eye of General Mills when a factory mishap leads unfortunate testicular consequences for a wannabe floor manager named Step (Clifton Collins, Jr.). Meanwhile, Joel's home life has dissipated and his wife (Kristen Wiig) seems disinterested in matters of the heart and the libido leading Joel's roving eye to new temp Cindy (Mila Kunis), a woman with a few ulterior motives of her own that will soon be revealed.
Despite the fact that "Extract" lacks the bark and the bite of Judge's usual fare, the film manages to work the majority of the time largely on the strength of a cast with stellar, low-key comic timing and a few comic set-ups that are laugh aloud funny, most involving the always delightful David Koechner, a sort of mini-Milton for "Extract."
While Jason Bateman seems an obvious choice for the central character of Joel, a low-key straight man to the lunacy that surrounds him, Bateman lacks the emotional range as an actor to turn Joel into a true cutting edge character so that the sparks could really fly between the film's characters. John Cusack, for example, is an actor who has long had a knack for taking seemingly normal characters to the outer edge of lunacy then reigning them back in and making them inviting and sympathetic. Bateman's Joel, on the other hand, is consistently tempered to the point that one's never convinced of his chemistry with his wife, his attachment to this company he's created or, for that matter, his attraction to the very sexy Cindy. As is true for the film, this is not to say that Bateman gives a weak performance but, rather, that he simply doesn't take Joel as far as Joel could have gone.
"Extract" is most successful when Judge sets it inside the factory, a delightful assortment of interesting characters ranging from the typical office nag (Beth Grant) to a wannabe rock star (T.J. Miller) to Joel's right hand man (J.K. Simmons) and others. The film drags, however, when the action drifts off to Joel's home where the relationship between Joel and his wife is never really developed and the chemistry between Bateman and Wiig is generally unconvincing. Only Bateman's edgy to the point of hostile relationship with his neighbor (Koechner) adds any spark to the home-based scenes.
Gene Simmons, yes THAT Gene Simmons, adds some nice flavor to the role of a con-artist lawyer who takes on Step's case against Reynold's Extract and Kunis gives Cindy a nice blend of girl next door adorability and con artist with a twinkle in her eye. Dustin Milligan, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Ben Affleck are solid in supporting roles, though Affleck borders on cartoonish at times.
"Extract" largely avoids gross-out humor and Apatow type over-the-top excesses in obscenity, preferring to find its humor in the more mundane expressions of life in the corporate world. While "Extract" never succeeds on the level of "Office Space," it entertains more often than not and will hopefully give Judge the box-office winner that has evaded him all these years.