by Corey Hall
Perhaps no one in Hollywood has had more success and less fame than Mike Judge. Though he has quietly built a comedy empire, dude's more camera-shy than animation attention whores such as Seth MacFarlane or Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Casual observers wouldn't notice him appearing as a strike agitator halfway through his latest film — hidden under a fake mustache and beer gut — but his comedic sensibility is instantly recognizable. Judge is a man of the people who's unafraid to point out that the average guy on the street is likely an asshole, or crazy, or both, and his heroes are simply those least prone to ignore the insanity around them. His pet idea is the oppression of the smart by the ignorant, a theme he brilliantly mined in the ambitious sci-fi spoof Idiocracy, which was shamefully thrown to the wolves by clueless studio suits.
This time, Judge's aim is narrower, his goals are more modest, but Extract is still uncommonly witty — even if it leans more to wacky sitcom moments than cutting satire.
In a reverse of Office Space's beaten cubicle drones, it's management that suffers from the incompetence of wage-slave boobs.
Jason Bateman is food-additive plant owner Joel Reynold, a guy who suffers fools idling away on his shop floor, because he's basically a decent guy...and he can't get anyone cheaper.
He could sell out to General Mills but there's a threatened lawsuit hanging over from a worker who lost a testicle in a freak on-floor accident. That poor schlub is goaded into suing by the slinky Cindy (Mila Kunis), a drifter con who seduces for fiscal gain, scamming with her lovely face, a face that looks pretty sweet to Joel since wife Susie (Kristen Wiig) has him on sexual lockdown, signaled nightly with frumpy sweatpants.
Sadly, Joel's only source of aid in such dilemmas is his greasy-haired slacker bartender buddy (played with loose-y charm by Ben Affleck) whose first solution is better drugs, and who offers Joel the worst marital advice ever: hire a gigolo to seduce his wife so he can cheat guilt-free. Said plan backfires, of course, hilariously.
If there's a problem with Extract it's that Judge can't reconcile his dark parody with the need for big punch lines, leaving some characters too broad and the laughs too subtle. Extract ends up retreating when it should kill, but when the satire's soft the film's still realistic with messy relationships and untidy conclusions.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.