The benefit of the doubt was given to Mike Judge just because I am such a huge fan of his cult classic Office Space (and to a lesser extent Beavis and Butt-Head). I won’t be doing that again. His latest poke at corporate life through the eyes of the everyday man, Extract, can hardly extract a laugh.
Where the problems lie are easy enough to figure out — the frumpled guy we’re supposed to rally behind is impossible to rally behind and the story, at its core, is quite boring. It all pretty much revolves around Joel Reynolds (Jason Bateman), our everyday guy who happens to be the founder and owner of an extract (as in vanilla and almond) company. Joel, you see, has gotten himself in a bit of a predicament. First, thanks to a freak accident which caused one of his workers to lose one of his two beloved nuts, the company Joel built up may go bankrupt due to an impending lawsuit. Secondly, he wants to screw a two-bit congirl Cindy (Mila Kunis) who now works at the factory. To clear the second situation from his plate, Joel concocts a ridiculous plan with best bud Dean (Ben Affleck) to hire an idiot to screw his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) so that he can have a clear conscious while cheating on her with Cindy. Little doe he realize Cindy is the reason for problem number one and that his bright idea for issue number two is fraught with pitfalls.
What Judge attempts to do with Extract is a lot of slight of hand — throwing a fair share of scenarios and characters at us that are unimportant to the central plot (some of which are used ad nauseam) in hopes one doesn’t notice how inane said plot is. Neighbor to Joel, Nathan (David Koechner, who is in absolutely everything resembling a comedy nowadays), is so annoying and used so frequently that I tuned out his running gag about money needed for some dinner date between the couples. Likewise, the oft-repeated line from the gigilo hired by Joel asking for more work loses its steam the moment it comes out of his mouth the second time. And don’t ask me what J.K. Simmons is supposed to be doing — all I know is whatever it is, it isn’t funny.
I will say that casting Jason Bateman as the central character was a good move and probably the only one I can give anyone any credit for. He’s generally seen as a sympathetic guy in most of his roles (Juno being a prime example) and that’s pretty much how Judge wants and needs him to act if the film was to have any chance of success. It’s just too bad he’s put into totally unsympathetic situations. I suppose I can give a thumbs up to Affleck as the burned-out bartender friend too. Not because he’s particularly good, more so because it’s always a plus to see an uber-celebrity take on a menial, self-degrading part and have fun with it.
Kunis, on the other hand, is totally miscast. She is neither hot enough to be the alluring vixen nor does she possess a strong enough personality to be some sort of a believable con artist. As another who sat with me during the viewing put it, she was just “meh”. And so much more could have been done with Kristen Wiig.
Anyways, “meh” pretty much sums up all of Extract in a single made-up word for below average crap. Sadly, I have a feeling it won’t be the last time I make use of it . . .