It must suck to be Mike Judge. You write and direct your own films, they turn out to be funny and no one shows up in theaters to watch them. Time after time after time. Then again, you're the creator of "Beavis and Butthead" and of the ultimate cult classics, Office Space. People may not see your work in theaters, but five years later, most people have seen your work. It must be great to be Mike Judge.
Judge's latest film, Extract, is his most marketable movie to date and most similar to Office Space. Granted, he's only done three live-action films in his career (the other being Idiocracy). In the well-casted comedy, Jason Bateman plays Joel, the owner of a flavor extract plant who's sexually frustrated because his wife (Kristen Wiig) won't put out and his new temp, Cindy (Mila Kunis), is hot and wants him badly. Most of his employees are idiots, but a large company has offered to buy him out - which would ensure a comfortable, early retirement. Unfortunately, one of his best employees just got his testicles blown off by a sloppy workplace accident and is threatening to sue, urged on by Cindy who, in fact, is a scam artist looking to make a lot of money from the settlement. J.K. Simmons, Ben Affleck and Gene Simmons (yes, that Gene Simmons) also star.
Extract is inevitably going to be compared to Office Space for the sole reason that the film takes place in a working environment, so let's get that out of the way. Extract is no Office Space. It's not as funny, not as clever and doesn't hit home nearly as well, probably because I've never worked in a manufacturing plant before (and presumably, most of Judge's target audience hasn't either). But...
Extract is still pretty funny. It doesn't always fire on all cylinders, but Judge has a way of drawing out small jokes over the course of a story, building upon them step by step. Things get funnier as they go along, and Judge pieces together a surprisingly intricate web of characters and situations that all play out in a quasi-realistic manner while being completely absurd at the same time. Don't expect a Judd Apatow-esque comedy where there's an edgy joke every 30 seconds, but accept it for what it is and enjoy it. Extract is definitely a step up from the inconsistent Idiocracy, though it too suffers from some off-and-on moments.
What makes the movie work, beyond Judge's careful crafting, is the talent involved. Bateman continues to come into his own as a leading man, proving once again that he has the comedic timing to make things work. He walks that fine line of being the smartest one around and yet also quite capable of doing stupid things himself (like hiring a gigolo to sleep with his wife so that he won't feel guilty about cheating on her). Kunis is at the top of her game here, cementing the fact that she's much more at home in comedy than she is in action films. She also looks ridiculously hot. Wiig doesn't get to do a whole lot, but she does get to unleash at the end. Affleck seems to have accepted that audiences prefer him in a supporting role, and he plays his character as a drug-selling, hippie bartender with sincerity.
Extract isn't perfect, and it's no Office Space, but it's still a deliciously funny and entertaining comedy. This is a great way to kick off the fall movie season.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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