I suppose I probably shouldn't have gone into Extract with such high expectations. I usually try to keep my hopes in check but sometimes that just isn't possible, you know what I mean? There are some writers, directors, and stars that have given me reason to really love their work so that when a new project comes up, I cannot help but get a little excited. Extract is one of those movies.
With his last two films, Office Space and Idiocracy, Mike Judge has positioned himself as a man who knows his comedy and knows how to make a very funny movie (particularly the former). Well, I am not going to go so far as say this is a bad movie, it isn't — it just isn't what I was hoping for. I guess this is what happens when one of your prior films is a classic of sorts. It's hard to return to those heights (nor should one try).
Extract centers around the stress of running a company that you do not feel fully invested in along with a healthy dose of sexual frustration. The problem is that I kept waiting for it to really take off and it never really did. It kept this stead pace of jokes that kept me interested, but the story never really hit home and I did not find any of it to be downright hilarious.
There are a couple of threads that weave their way through the film. You have Joel (Jason Bateman) trying to rekindle things with his wife, Suzie (Kristen Wiig), the problem being that if he does no get home before 8 PM, her sweatpants are more effective than a chastity belt. Joel also feels attracted to the new temp at his extract factory, Cindy (Mila Kunis), but he will not cheat on his wife. His buddy, Dean (Ben Affleck) the bartender, suggests the use of a gigolo to induce his wife to cheat and then cheat himself with a clear conscience. Then there is the part about Cindy, who is a con-woman, who takes a job at the factory for her own ulterior motives. The final primary thread concerns a factory worker named Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), who suffered a highly unfortunate accident and is planning to sue the company.
In addition to those main pieces, there are also a few minor threads in the mix to add flavor. These elements include David Koechner as an overly friendly boor of a neighbor who seemingly waits in the bushes to talk your ear off, and a line worker who talks more than he works and is suspicious of the Mexican-American co-workers. There are also rumors of the factory being sold circling around the floor, which is manned by an assortment of dysfunctional folks.
The problem is that there is much more setup than there is payoff. The story meanders about, never taking form, unlike, say, Office Space which had all of these added characters but but a more finely focused plot. This one goes from setup to setup, seeming to head toward a larger picture, but failing to pull back to allow us to see it. So, instead of a comedic whole, we get funny moments, bits and pieces where genius shines through, sequences that threaten to give away the big picture that are cut short before allowing anything to happen.
Mike Judge's direction is fine. There is nothing flashy to it, similar to Kevin Smith's (although Judge is probably the better of the two), but it gets the job done. The problem lies in the writing. It feels like Judge was not sure where he wanted to go or ultimately say with Extract. It is more a series of pieces that would have made for a better series than a film. Still, the good parts and performances make it an enjoyable performance, if not a must see one.
As for the performances, there really is not a bad one in the bunch; yes they are let down by the story development, but they are still fun to watch. Jason Bateman is perfectly cast as the put upon factory owner, just like Mila Kunis is perfect as she pulls off the adorable con; it is very easy to believe them in their roles. Chemistry between the cast members works, and I enjoyed spending time with them. Quite frankly, I would have loved to spend more time with them, especially if it would have meant a better look at the tale.
Bottom line. I like this movie, but it is not a great one. It may not even be a good one. It rests squarely on the performers and their ability to give their roles more meaning than he script callsl for. Worth checking out, just do not expect Office Space.