Starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, JK Simmons, David Koechner, Clifton Collins Jr., Ben Affleck, Dustin Milligan, Beth Grant, TJ Miller, Javier Gutierrez, Lidia Porto, Gene Simmons, Matt Schulze, Jenny O’Hara, Lamberto Gutierrez, Brent Briscoe, Hal Sparks and Nick Thune.
Written by Mike Judge.
Directed by Mike Judge.
Distributed by Miramax Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated R.
Mike Judge has made a big splash in animated television. His MTV series Beavis and Butt-Head became a cultural phenomenon in the mid-90s. The next series, King of the Hill – while never quite as ground-breakingly popular as its predecessor – had a much longer life, recently leaving the air after twelve seasons on FOX. Both series were deceptively simple-seeming and at the same time scathingly satirical looks at modern life.
His record in films is much more mixed, though his satirical edge has remained sharp. He started off well, riding the Beavis gravy train to a minor hit with Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. However, that hardly counts – everyone realizes that was just an overly padded extended episode riding the series’ popularity.
Then Judge went and did an interesting thing. He dumped the animation for which he was known and went to live-action (though, admittedly, sometimes still cartoonish) films. The first one, Office Space (1999), a withering look at workplace cubicle culture, was a box-office disappointment that gained cult popularity once released to cable and home video.
His follow-up, Idiocracy, was so coldly satirical about human stupidity that its studio was relatively sure that most people just wouldn’t get it that they were too afraid to release it to theaters, eventually slipping it out on video. This time, the studio was apparently right – even cult fandom pretty much evaded the film.
Therefore, in his third live-action film Judge returns to the workplace environment which made Office Space so easily relatable to people. Instead of the office setting of the earlier film, this movie takes on factory work. Like the other film, Extract was pretty much ignored in its short theatrical run.
Also like Office Space, Extract is absolutely deserving of capturing a second wind now that it is being released on video, download and PPV.
Extract is a sublimely silly – and at the same time occasionally horrifyingly accurate – look at life and love in the modern American workplace.
Of course, in Mike Judge’s world, most people are rather stupid, often insipid and driven by lust.
The hero – as close as anyone here is a hero – is Joel (Jason Bateman), a man who is following his dream by opening and running a factory which sells flavor extracts. Joel is stuck in a sexless marriage, has a bit of a drinking problem and hates his neighbors. He is also constantly afraid of losing what little bit of the American dream he has been able to grab for himself.
Things lose control when Cindy, a gorgeous con woman (Mila Kunis) positions herself in the factory to try to win a huge worker’s comp settlement. Joel, who has long gone without passion, imagines having an affair with Cindy but feels guilty about the idea of cheating on his wife. When he mistakenly is given a potent mind-altering drug by his bartending buddy (a good natured supporting spot from Ben Affleck) he is talked into hiring a gigolo to sleep with his wife so that he won’t have to feel guilty.
As you may imagine, that doesn’t go well.
In the meantime, his workers are revolting because of real and imagined slights on the job and Joel’s dream scenario of selling his business to a major conglomerate is thrown into jeopardy because of the worker’s comp situation.
If you pay too much attention, Extract really makes very little sense. However, it’s not supposed to. The characters are flesh and blood versions of Judge’s cartoon heroes – realism can be very subjective.
Like most of Judge’s work, Extract is just too goofy to take too seriously and too biting to take lightly – making the whole deal sometimes feel a little awkward. However, even if the whole movie does not totally work, there are enough truly funny moments along the way to make Extract worth taking the ride.
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 25, 2009.