Movie Review - Extract directed
by Mike Judge
NEXT TIME, DON’T EXTRACT ALL THE CYNICISM
by Kevin Bowen
published September 4, 2009
now playing nationwide
Let’s all take a moment and appreciate Jason Bateman.
He’s one child star that didn’t go all Todd Bridges on us. Instead, he
kept fighting, hooked onto a hugely influential sitcom (Arrested Development), and now has carved
out a burgeoning movie career in Juno etc. as a dependable wisecracker.
Raised in the Hollywood spotlight, it would be strange that any former
child star would turn out with such a gift for onscreen Everymanhood. But it’s hard to argue the evidence. Without Bateman’s vulnerable
sarcasm, Mike Judge’s amiable but soggy Extract would be considerably less. With the wrong lead
actor it could’ve been a cartoonish disaster. (But it isn’t.)
Bateman’s priceless reactions are refreshment to a film that gives the boss plenty to suffer. Joel is
the owner of a cooking extract manufacturing factory ready to sell big to Big Food. The week
that should be his lifelong vindication instead becomes exasperation, as his life goes bonkers with professional and domestic mayhem.
Causing havoc are his celibate wife (Kristen Wiig), his druggie pal (Ben Affleck), a klepto gamine (Mila Kunis), a pool boy gigolo (Dustin
Milligan), and a floor supervisor (Clifton Collins, Jr.) who accidentally participates in a different sort of extract. Involving
Judge fills out the roster with the “quirky” characters that come and go
from the factory and around the neighborhood. Mainly they seem like the people whose audition tapes were rejected from other Mike Judge
projects – some blue-hair leftovers from King of the Hill, the fabled third member of Beavis and Butthead, etc. Say this for Judge – like Preston
Sturges, he can write funny lines for just about anybody in their own personal vernacular. But spinning them into more than comic dartboards
isn’t his strongest talent.
For a film with such a cynical view of its characters (the right choice is
always the last choice), it completely wimps out and goes sweet at the end. It looks like Joel, freed of his dead marriage, might ditch
regular life and hit the road with Milan Kunis’ slutty thief on a multi-state criminal spree. Frankly, the film would be better if they were
gunned down. That would have been an ending.
Alas, no one would make that film anymore. And the ending of Extract does its civic duty and panders to bourgeois sensibility. Joel goes back to the factory and starts
lining up the inexplicable and undeserved soft landing. As the film carries out a line of increasingly disappointing forgivenesses, you wonder
why Judge ditched his pointed farce. There’s something dead in this ending.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com