Writer/director Mike Judge's latest film, Extract, is loaded with unlikeable characters doing silly, irresponsible things. However, if Extract was half as funny as Judge's Office Space, I could forgive its characters' shortcomings and its lame plot. But Extract can't hold a candle to Office Space. People still quote Office Space today, 10 years after that film's release. Odds are moviegoers won't remember a single line from Extract upon exiting the theater.
The StoryJason Bateman plays Joel Reynolds, owner of an extract factory where incompetence is the norm and where employees apparently must flunk aptitude tests in order to be hired. The main players in this factory world are Mary (Beth Grant), a harpy who complains about everything, Rory (TJ Miller), a wannabe rocker who should be the last person on earth allowed to drive a forklift, and Step (Clifton Collins Jr), a hard-working simpleton whose goal in life is to be placed in charge of the factory's floor.
By the time we meet Joel, he's ready to hand over his company and its collection of idiots to a big corporation. General Mills wants to buy him out, and Joel's overjoyed by the prospect of saying adios to the world of extracts. But Joel's plans of an early retirement are put in jeopary when Rory and Mary disobey every workplace safety regulation and cause poor Step to lose a testicle.
Now Step, being the good ol' boy that he is, only wants the insurance pay-out and to get back to work. But no, into the picture pops con artist cutie, Cindy (Mila Kunis). Cindy weasels her way into a temp job at the factory and into Step's life, scamming to get rich quick by convincing Step to sue Joel. If Step gets paid, then Cindy figures she'll get paid too by convincing Step she's the love of his life.
Of course, Joel, being married to a woman who won't have sex often and never past 8pm, falls for Cindy without knowing what she's up to. And Joel's best friend, Dean (Ben Affleck looking all scruffy), is about as big an idiot as anyone on Joel's staff, so the solution he comes up with involves hiring a gigolo (Dustin Milligan) to seduce Joel's wife - and taking drugs. All sorts of drugs, some in massive quantities.
The Bottom Line
Getting stoned by way of a really big bong is always funny, right? Umm, no. And repeating the same set-up over and over again because it's bound to pay off at least once is the way to win over audiences, right? No again. And limiting the two funniest characters to sporadic appearances and too-short scenes is the way to really elicit laughs, right? You get the point here by now. Extract is guilty of pushing what doesn't work too far while veering sharply away from anything that looks like it might have actually gone somewhere interesting.
I wanted to laugh. I was ready to laugh, but Extract let me down. It also let down the cast of usually very funny actors, in particular Kristen Wiig as Bateman's 'once the sweatpants are on, there's no chance in hell of sex' wife. She's wasted here. Same can be said of J.K. Simmons as Bateman's business partner. The only actor who makes an impression, and it's because his character is annoying - and relatable - is David Koechner. Koechner plays Nathan, Joel's stalker-ish neighbor who, on a nightly basis, waylays Joel and prevents him from making it home by the 8pm sex curfew.
The further into the realm of ridiculousness Extract pushes, the less funny it gets. Even the ever-charming and usually dependable Jason Bateman winds up a victim of a thin plot and jokes that lack a real punch. For a movie set in a food flavoring factory, Extract's half-baked comedy is bland and unappetizing.
Extract was directed by Mike Judge and is rated R for language, sexual references and drug use.
Theatrical Release Date: September 4, 2009