Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Mike Judge is the kind of filmmaker who has developed a loyal following because of his limited output. After working for "Saturday Night Live," he both amused and annoyed TV audiences with the outrageous "Beavis and Butthead" on MTV. He followed up that hit series with "King of the Hill" for the Fox Network. Then came his jump to the big screen with OFFICE SPACE, which has gone past having a following to being a major cult hit. It still draws crowds whenever it plays in towns large and small.
Now Mike Judge is back with Extract, which is sort of the flip side of Office Space. Instead of looking at a business from the employee’s perspective, Extract uses the owner’s eyes to set up the plot. Former TV sitcom star Jason Bateman plays Joel, who owns a company that makes extracts. You know…flavorings; like vanilla, coconut, almond, etc. His life is in a rut, both in the office, and at home. His wife is bored. His plant workers are…to be kind…seriously south of stupid. His best friend Dean is a major stoner and a bartender, who is just full of terrible ideas how to improve Joel’s situations. And the next-door neighbor is completely unbearable.
With all these elements in place, the plot careens into the realm of "hijinks ensue." To reveal them would be to give away much of the film’s charm. Suffice to say most of the humor is of the "silly grin" kind, but the finale does provide a hearty belly laugh. And there is likely more drug-related humor in Extract than in just about anything since the heyday of Cheech and Chong.
Bateman is just fine as your average Joel, with his own set of problems…just like many of us. He’s turning into a really good character actor, with notable roles in such films as Juno and State of Play. His buddy, Dean, is Ben Affleck, behind a full beard, long hair, and a dim look in his eyes that says "I’m a deep thinker" when we all know better. Mila Kunis, from another Fox TV hit "That 70’s Show," plays a cute young lass who can convince men to do just about anything with no difficulty at all.
The rest of the cast does a good job with their given roles, especially David Koechner as Nathan, the noxious neighbor. Many of us have lived, if not next door to, at least in the vicinity of, someone who is might be construed as a curse upon mankind… boring, unendingly repetitive, incredibly pesty, and worst of all…completely clueless.
One of the nice things about Extract is how Judge and his cast take a group of characters that are mostly sad, and by giving them a coating of "stupid" or a sprinkle of "humanity" makes them both funny and forgivable.
The film met one of my important criteria in movie watching. I went in expecting nothing, and came away with something enjoyable. And these days, that’s a big plus.