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The film career of Mike Judge has largely relied on word of mouth, DVD sales, and afternoon airings on Comedy Central, and the thought was that Extract would be his commercial break through. Well, it wasn’t, but that doesn’t make it any lesser than his previous films, Office Space and Idiocracy. The other two are satires, taking on the banal work environment and the devolution of society. Extract breaks this mold, and instead is a straightforward comedy depicting the continually muddled world of Joel (Jason Bateman), an owner of an extract plant.
Joel genuinely has an interest in the rather mundane product that he makes, but he seems disinterested in his life as a whole at the start of the film. He’s trying to sell the company to General Mills and his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) ties her sweatpants so tight that sex is simply out of the question. Nothing for him at home or at work, he spends his nights at the sports bar of a hotel with his bartender friend Dean (a surprisingly funny Ben Affleck). He also has an annoying neighbor, Nathan (David Koechner), who stops him on his way home to endlessly invite him to things, including a charity event that he thinks Joel and Suzie will attend, despite their firm no. Needless to say, he’s stuck in a major rut .
Then disaster strikes when one of his employees, Step (Clifton Collins, Jr.) looses a testicle in an on the job accident. Joel and his partner Brian (the reliable J.K. Simmons) figure they’re settle with insurance money with Step and move on with their cut and run deal with General Mills. Enter Cindy (Mila Kunis), a gorgeous con-woman who learns of Step’s predicament and swoops in as a temp at the plant as a way to get to Step and convince him to instead sue Joel and Brian, leaving her with millions to steal.
Her flirting with Joel and an accidental dose of horse tranquilizer lead Joel to follow Dean’s idea of hiring a really stupid gigolo, Brad (Dustin Milligan), to sleep with Suzie so that he can then sleep guilt free with Cindy. On horse tranquilizers, it seems like a brilliant plan, but in the clear light of day, Joel becomes enraged that Suzie sleeps with Brad and not her. That’s where things begin to spiral out of control, when Step hires a lawyer (played by a perfectly tacky Gene Simmons), the workers threaten a strike, and Joel gets beat up physically and emotionally constantly, as if on cue. The ending of the film is sweet in only a way Mike Judge could do a sweet ending, with things moving towards the previous status quo for Joel.
Compared to Office Space and Idiocracy, I think you could say that Extract is Judge’s more sophisticated comedy, but that would probably be a misuse of the term. Extract is a bit more restrained than the first two, but it still has testicle jokes, drug jokes, and a guy that is pretty similar to Bill Lumbergh in Nathan. I think the biggest issue with Extract though is that it feels like its missing an end goal. Sure, Joel wants to have a guilt free affair and sell his company, but he regrets the decision to have the affair when he realizes what he’s done and it’s unclear why he wants to sell the company in the first place. Narratively, the film is just a bit choppy, but everyone in it is very good. Ben Affleck manages not to play Ben Affleck, and gets big time laughs for it, and Kristen Wiig does really well in a more normal character than she usually plays on SNL and movies. In the end, I think Extract will get the same second life that the previous Mike Judge films did, but it will rate third behind them.
Michael’s Score: 66
Tangled Up in Wires Grade: B