Extract (2009) dir. Mike Judge
Starring: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Ben Affleck, Kristin Wiig
By Alan Bacchus
Unfortunately ‘Extract’ is a near disaster of a comedy, but such is the nature with comedies – the riskiest of genres. It comes from Mike Judge who has created many of the pop culture benchmarks ‘Beavis & Butthead’, ‘King of the Hill’ and ‘Office Space’. While some individual moments tease us with the sharp deadpan situational comedy from ‘Office Space’, ultimately its very tenuous premise and a near irredeemable main character doom the picture.
Jason Bateman plays Joel, the owner of a bottled soft drink company called Extract. He has a laundry list of problems from his deadbeat employees, to his obnoxious neighbour, to his wife who never sleeps with him. The latter causes him the most distress – symbolized by a funny gag about his wife’s jogging pants which once they’re on, never ever come off. And Joel never seems to come home before those jogging pants come on.
Meanwhile, running around town disrupting the community is Cindy (Mila Kunis) a petty con artist who has latched onto the arm of a former Extract employee on worker’s comp, and who now targets Joel’s company for even more money. Things get complicated when Joel, in lieu of sleeping of his wife, desires to sleep with Cindy. So at the advice of his deadbeat bar buddy, Joel enacts a plan to pay a pool boy to sleep with his wife, thus allowing him to reciprocate and sleep with Cindy without guilt.
There’s about four interesting comedies in that synopsis alone – four different pictures with different tones. And so, Mr. Judge trying to make everything work results in a sloppy mess with inconsistent humour, nefarious characters whom we never really figure out with an aimless and meandering narrative direction which goes nowhere.
If the film were about Joel’s silly plan to get the poolboy to sleep with his wife, there may be movie there – a very black comedy of errors perhaps in the vain of ‘A Fish Called Wanda’. But there’s also elements of Judge’s deadpan tone of social satire, doing for working class factory life what he did for suburban office culture. I’ve worked at a bottling plant before and there’s much humour to be mined from that oddball environment, but it all feels untapped.
The only moments which work is David Koechner’s annoying neighbour character, who pesters Joel in the most inopportune times for a $120 cheque to cover a prix-fixe dinner table reservation Joel never wanted in the first place. Koechner, a great comedic character actor, combines the patheticness of both Judge’s Milton and Lumbergh’s characters from ‘Office Space’.
And other than Ben Affleck, who provides some decent stoner humour, everything else is a wash. But cudos to Judge for giving it a go, because if he needs to make 2 or 3 'Extracts' to make one 'Office Space' it's worth it.
‘Extract’ is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment