Mike Judge has made a career out of making genuinely funny and likable characters that viewers can relate to on some level. His previous works, minus “Idiocracy”, generally dealt with real life issues and situations and the reality of those situations were what made a film like “Office Space” into a cult classic and “King of the Hill” into one of the longest running animated television shows ever. On the surface “Extract” follows the basic tenets of Judge’s previous works but, for a variety of reasons, it does not pull together in the way one would expect. Maybe it’s the fact that I have never worked in a factory, where “Extract” takes place, or maybe its the fact that I do not own my own company, like the main character Joel (Jason Bateman) but something about “Extract” just did not click for me.
The film takes place at an extract factory and follows the story of Joel, the owner of the company. Joel has marital problems and he spends more of his time talking with his bartender friend Dean (Ben Affleck) than he does with his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig). Joel’s problems compound when one of his workers, Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), gets injured on the job just as General Mills is setting up to buy the company. Step’s injury brings Cindy (Mila Kunis), a opportunity seeking scam artist, into the life of Joel and things go from bad to worse.
The film runs a pair of concurrent storylines, one being about Joel’s marital problems and the other being about the impending lawsuit of Step’s injury. The two collide in a messy heap in the last act of the film and neither is interesting enough on its own to hold your attention for very long. The main story plays out in rather predictable fashion and whereas the characters are generally entertaining and well acted; the situations Judge puts them in, while mildly amusing, are unbelievable in many regards. In “Office Space”, the situations were absurd and over-the-top but I was able to buy the actions and reactions as something that could possibly happen in “Extract” I hardly ever bought into the situation at play. Aside from the awkward neighbor encounters Joel has with Nathan (David Koechner), everything in “Extract” happens in some strange reality where nothing makes sense. Of course that would all be fine if “Extract” took place in the world of “Idiocracy” but it doesn’t.
Its not that “Extract” is a bad film though because it does offer up its fair share of laughs and at the end of the day a comedy needs to be funny and “Extract” is. Almost any scene featuring Affleck, Koechner, J.K. Simmons (as Joel’s co-owner Brian), or Gene Simmons (as personal injury attorney Joe Adler) is laugh-out-loud funny. What the real problem is though, is that “Extract” should and could be better than it is, it could be a smart and funny comedy but instead it is just mediocrity.
3 out of 5.