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A surprisingly mundane effort from Mike Judge, Extract seems to be one of those movies that the filmmakers believe has more going on under the surface than is really there. Judge populates his film with a typically eclectic group of quirky characters, but then doesn’t give them anything to do. In one of the Blu-Ray extras, he expresses a belief that there is a subtlety to the characters and the story. To me, the script goes beyond subtlety into pointlessness.
With a story revolving around a disenfranchised factory owner (they make food flavor extracts) who hires a well-meaning gigolo to seduce his wife, giving him an excuse to sleep with a new hire who is actually a con artist, Judge has crafted a humorously convoluted setup. On paper, this sounds like a perfect story for his sensibilities. Unfortunately, the laughs are few and far between. The movie’s not necessarily boring or bad; it’s just not funny.
Considering the terrific cast he assembled, I was really surprised at how lackluster everything was. Jason Bateman is terrific in the lead as Joel. Very similar to Michael Bluth, his character from the sadly cancelled Arrested Development, Bateman plays Joel as a frustrated everyman. He’s desperate to move onto the next phase of his life and to rekindle an all-but-dead physical relationship with his wife, played by the unusually restrained Kristen Wiig (SNL). Also featuring great performances from Ben Affleck as his stoner best friend, David Koechner as the obnoxious next-door-neighbor, JK Simmons as his co-worker, and Mila Kunis as the con-artist love interest, there’s no reason that this movie wasn’t more entertaining than it was.
As I sat there watching the story play out, I never felt invested in what was happening. It was as if Judge was just going through the motions, getting us from Point A to B to C with no real motivation for the progression, beyond the fact that that is what stories do.
With a history that includes Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, Office Space, and the highly underrated Idiocracy, this is probably Judge’s most straightforward project to date. All of these other works contain a scathing satire often hidden just under the surface. That satire is what elevates his material beyond what it appears to be. Extract plays it safe, to the detriment of the entire film.
I suppose if this exact movie was made by a first-time writer/director, I might be more forgiving. It would be just as bland and forgettable, but it wouldn’t be so frustrating. However, this is Judge’s film, and he didn’t reach the bar he has set for himself.
Reinforcing the mediocrity of the film is the newly released Blu-Ray. Beyond a few “extended scenes” that barely add more than an occasional sentence, and a completely pointless deleted scene, there is only one extra. Entitled “Mike Judge’s Secret Recipe Featurette-The Ingredients for a classic Mike Judge film,” this feature runs about ten minutes, and interviews the primary cast while showing the actual factory they used to film the movie. And that’s it.
This lack of material is indicative of the apparent lack of enthusiasm in the entire production. Nothing stands out about this movie, and this is why it will be quickly forgotten, destined to become just a footnote on the resumes of everybody involved.