Release Date: December 22, 2009
Own it on Blu-ray and DVD
Director: Mike Judge
Writer: Mike Judge
Stars: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons
MPAA Rating: R
In Office Space, writer/director Mike Judge showed he is capable of capturing the humor in mundane, everyday life. Unfortunately, in Extract, all Mike Judge is able to capture is the mundaneness.
The movie centers around Joel (Jason Bateman), the proprietor of Reynold’s Extract, a company that makes … you guessed it … extracts. The plot is somewhat convoluted, but essentially, Joel is looking to sell his company to General Mills, but first he must settle a pending workers’ compensation lawsuit and deal with the rest of his unhappy employees, who have heard rumors of the sale. On the home front, Joel’s sweatpants-clad wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) continually deprives him of sex, so he decides to hire a gigolo to seduce her so that he can feel less guilty about his desire to sleep with Cindy (Mila Kunis), the beautiful new temp at work. Neither plot is particularly captivating or well-executed, but the b-plot has the added problem of making Suzie completely unlikeable and Joel unsympathetic.
However, the real shame is in the fact that Judge completely misuses Cindy, who had the potential to be a really intriguing character. The film opens on her in a music store, using her looks and charm to distract the two employees so that she can steal an electric guitar. Kunis, who is both beautiful and delightful on screen, finds a way to make you like her grifter character, but her role quickly runs out of steam when she heads to Reynold’s Extract in order to con Joel and his employees. Worst of all, her story arc completely fizzles out in the end, causing her to just sort of disappear as the movie stumbles to its unfulfilling climax.
The supporting cast is filled with talented comedic actors who are also given little to work with. The usually hilarious J.K. Simmons plays the underdeveloped and utterly-forgettable Brian, who is helping Joel run the company, though his exact title and relationship to Joel are never really explained. Beth Grant, who was fantastic as the Sparkle Motion stage mother in Donnie Darko, plays the dull, annoying, xenophobic factory worker Mary. Even Ben Affleck, who has proven in Kevin Smith’s films that he is capable of playing comedic roles, isn’t given any good material to work with as Dean, the longhaired, drug-addicted bartender at Sidelines Sports Bar, where Joel spends his evenings.
The most promising supporting character is Nathan, played by David Koechner of Anchorman fame. Nathan is the quintessential annoying and pushy neighbor, a role which seems funny initially, but quickly gets old when it becomes clear that Nathan is really just a one-trick pony. Making matters worse, the way Judge chose to wrap up things with Nathan was completely baffling and disappointing.
To put it simply, the movie just isn’t funny. There isn’t a single laugh-out-loud moment in the whole film and most of the scenes that make you chuckle were already shown in the trailer. Visually, the film is just as boring – even on Blu-ray, the sets themselves just look dull and colorless.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why things went so wrong. Mike Judge has shown with Office Space and with his animated shows, King of the Hill and Beavis and Butthead, that he is capable of writing good comedy. He even assembled a great cast filled with proven comedic actors. If he had just turned the cameras on and allowed the actors to improvise every scene, chances are he would have ended up with something far more compelling than what ended up on screen. Instead, the movie is something akin to an extract; it offers a slight taste of comedy with no real substance.
The special features included on the Blu-ray and DVD release are also forgettable. There is only one featurette, an 11-minute behind-the-scenes documentary entitled “Mike Judge’s Secret Recipe.” The featurette offers one interesting tidbit – the fact that the factory scenes were filmed inside a real working factory – but the rest of it is spent telling you why the movie is so funny and well-written, which it isn’t. The only other bonus content included is one deleted scene and several extended scenes, none of which are worth watching.
Obviously, I’m not recommending renting this film, let alone buying it. While I remain a fan of Mike Judge and think he is capable of writing and directing great comedies, this movie is simply a rare misfire, one best forgotten. Watching it will inevitably do something that the makers of Reynold’s Extract fear the most – leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Written by Joel Murphy. Extract is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.