Judging Mike Judge’s EXTRACT

EXTRACT (Dir. Mike Judge, 2009)

The filmography of Mike Judge is very small (just 4 films over 13 years) and very odd. Best known as the creator and voice of Beavis And Butt-head and King Of The Hill, his movies have a obvious bent towards working stiffs and the threat of stupidity taking over the world (see OFFICE SPACE and IDIOCRACY). EXTRACT is cut from the same cloth as Judge’s cult classic OFFICE SPACE but it’s a jagged uneven piece of that cloth. As the protagonist Jason Bateman is not just a cog in the system, he owns his own company – an extract manufacturing plant. A freak accident on the factory assembly line that leaves one of his employees (Clifton Collins Jr.) with only one testicle, leaves him with a huge lawsuit that could potentially ruin his company. Meanwhile on the home front Bateman isn’t getting any action from his wife (a blank slate Kristen Wiig from SNL) so he drowns his sorrows at a nearby hotel sports bar whining to his best friend – bartender Ben Affleck.

Affleck, bearded and be-wigged and seemingly having a better time than anyone else in the movie, spouts out awful advice, and recommends pills as solutions. Bateman is attracted to a new intern (Mila Kunis) and confides to Affleck that he wouldn’t care if his wife cheated on him as long as he could get it on with Kunis. Affleck refers Bateman, heavily drugged, to a small time gigolo (Dusty Milligan) whom he hires to go to his house in the guise of a pool cleaner in order to seduce his wife.

Okay! This is where I give up on the plot summary as recounting it is almost as bad as it was watching it. What started out promisingly becomes a test of endurance. Instead of waiting for laughs I found myself anticipating the flimsy unpleasant premise to get even more flimsier and unpleasant. When Gene Simmons of Kiss showed up as a sleazy lawyer (one of the film’s most inspired notions actually) I expected him to make good on his threat to slam Bateman’s balls in the conference room door. Why not? It’s not like the film had any loftier aspirations.

There are a number of genuine laughs in EXTRACT, just not enough to add up to a great cutting comedy. Kunis’s character as a hottie grifter (no Spoilers there – that’s revealed in the opening scene) offers no surprises and no character is likable enough to care about – I’ve liked Bateman in just about everything I’ve seen him in (especially Arrested Development) but here he’s a pretty bland and not particularly sympathetic everyman. I cringed more than I laughed during this movie I’m sad to report. Judge’s previous works were indeed odd with a twisted yet likable affinity for those struggling to climb to another rung on the ladder of success. EXTRACT is just odd and twisted – which would be fine if it was just funnier.

More later…

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