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Josh Reviews Extract

September 28th, 2009
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So let’s get this out of the way:  Office Space is one of the greatest films ever made.  Just a phenomenal movie.  Writer/Director Mike Judge’s second film, Idiocracy, was much, much weaker (although not so horrible that it deserved the way it was basically dumped direct-to-DVD by 20th Century Fox).  Judge’s new film, Extract, falls somewhere in between those two films in terms of quality.

Jason Bateman plays Joel, the sad-sack owner of a small plant that produces flavored almond extract.  His wife (Kristen Wiig) doesn’t want to sleep with him, he lives next door to an extraordinarily annoying neighbor (David Koechner), and his factory workers are all, well, morons.  To make matters worse, Joel’s plans to sell the plant are put into jeopardy by a freak accident that causes an unfortunate injury to his plant’s wannabe-floor manager, the fairly-clueless Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), AND Joel has just mistakenly hired a money-chasing con artist (Mila Kunis) who is after the money that Step will probably make if he sues Joel’s company.  Oh, and Joel really needs to stop listening to the terrible advice doled out by his bar-tender, Dean (a very hairy Ben Affleck).

What follows is an amusing look into the lives of a group of powerfully ordinary Americans, most of whom are either very unhappy or very dim.  I enjoyed the film, but it’s not at all the laugh-riot I was expecting from Mike Judge and a cast of that pedigree.

The beauty of Office Space is that, while most of the main characters are unhappy (as they are in Extract), we completely feel for them in their unhappiness because of all the cubicle bullshit that we see they have to put up with on a daily basis.  Furthermore, while exaggerated, all of that office-life nonsense rings true.  That core of truth is, I think, critical in the audience being swept along by all of the silliness that then transpires in the film.  But much of the set-up of Extract feels slightly false to me.  For instance, the major issue between Joel and his wife (that she won’t have sex with him after 8 PM, and he can never get home before then) is good for a few laughs but also seems rather ridiculous.  Kristen Wiig plays Suzie as a decent person who does seem to like her husband — so it seems like the type of thing that they could easily work out with a simple conversation.  Of course, if they did, there’d be no movie, but I’m always bothered when I notice characters only acting a certain way because that’s what the plot demands.

Still, there is some good fun to be had.  Most reviews of the film have been highlighting Ben Affleck’s slightly loony performance, and it was great seeing him having some fun in a movie again.  I have always loved Affleck’s comedic performances in Kevin Smith’s films — and the man is a RIOT on the DVD commentary tracks to those films (his impersonation of Denzel Washington on the Dogma commentary is priceless) — and it’s terrific to see him back in a comedic role.  I’d love to see him do more of this type of work.  I also really enjoyed the unfailingly great J. K. Simmons as Joel’s partner Brian.  Just thinking about him saying “dingus” makes me chuckle.  I wish he’d had more to do in the film.

If you’re a Mike Judge fan, then Extract is worth a look.  But a home-run this is not.

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