Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language, Sexual References and Some Drug Use
Directed by: Mike Judge
Written by: Mike Judge
Starring: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons, Clifton Collins Jr., David Koechner, Beth Grant, T.J. Miller
Mike Judge has gained quite a following of fans with his hysterical workplace comedy (OFFICE SPACE) and a long-running animated sitcom (KING OF THE HILL). Though I have yet to see IDIOCRACY, I hear it’s pretty damn funny too. EXTRACT is a movie that has fast been forgotten since it’s release almost five years ago. Though it includes some colorful characters and moments of dry humor that work in the story’s favor, this is a mostly bland comedy wandering aimlessly in search of an interesting plot strand to grab hold of.
Joel (Jason Bateman) is a self-made company owner and the central character of EXTRACT. Though his work life is going very well, he finds himself sexually frustrated with his exhausted wife who just doesn’t seem to care anymore. After an accident, caused by some dysfunctional employees, results in a worker getting injured. Joel finds himself faced with a variety of problems. Some of these are caused by himself (such as hiring a gigolo to clean his pool to see if his wife would be unfaithful given the circumstances), but most are caused by a recently hired temp, named Cindy (Mila Kunis). Faced with an impending lawsuit, a cheating spouse (a role that seems wasted by the usually great Kristin Wiig), and a thief in the company’s midst, Joel’s problems are colliding.
From that synopsis, you might notice a lack of intriguing details. That’s because EXTRACT feels more like a slice-of-life comedy. The problems come from the both the slice that was cut and life that it happens to be from. For the most part, these are both dull. With any good characters backing this plot up, EXTRACT could have been entertaining. The real issue comes in the character of Joel. We rarely leave his side and he’s the most focused character of the entire film. There’s just not much to him. He’s not very likable and the holes he keeps getting himself into don’t result in many laughs, but rather a growing distaste for this asshole. With a great performance Joel might have been molded into a character that the viewer would enjoy watching. Jason Bateman seems to be just reading off a teleprompter for most of the film and the same can be said about nearly every other cast member here.
The most colorful characters are regulated to a few minutes of screen time and nobody leaves a lasting impression after the credits have ended. There are doubtful to be any Joel T-shirts or memes, unlike the countless Lumberg or Milton impressions and quotes that are frequently brought from OFFICE SPACE. I wouldn’t be comparing the two, but we’ve seen what Mike Judge is capable of in his past work and to make another workplace comedy (albeit in a different environment) you have to expect some form of comparison.
Besides being in a search of an interesting plot thread, EXTRACT also seems to be looking for a solid tone to roll with. Sometimes, the movie wants to be funny. Other times, it’s a bit more dramatic. It seems like Mike Judge kind of wanted to do a more serious workplace comedy with hints of OFFICE SPACE or KING OF THE HILL. There’s some dry humor that works. The funniest scenes usually involve Joel’s annoying neighbor (played by a nerdy David Koechner) who doesn’t take hints to leave, even if the door is literally slammed in his face. Ben Affleck is actually decent enough as a drug-addicted bartender and best friend of Joel, but again, this is a character forced into the backdrop. The comedy aspect of the film seems to fall flat in 3/4ths of the jokes presented. It’s like someone with a sense of dry humor repeating the same joke that wasn’t funny in its first time around.
It’s not that EXTRACT is particularly bad. It’s just mediocre and almost flavorless. In the past, Mike Judge has made a hilarious cult hit and a funny animated sitcom (along with BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD). EXTRACT was his latest directorial effort in the cinematic world. It just feels bland. If it were any flavor of the many extracts that the main character would manufacture in his company, EXTRACT would be vanilla. Take that as you will.