Movie Review: Mike Judge's Extract starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis and Ben Affleck

Extract stars Jason Bateman as Joel, the owner of Reynolds Extract, a small production house manufacturing food flavoring. Joel's life is as vanilla as his product. Sure, he's got the BMW and the big house, but these luxuries come with an annoying neighbor (David Koechner) and a sexless marriage to Suzie (Kristen Wiig), a woman for whom sweatpants are an immovable object. At work, there's a chance a much bigger company will buy Joel out and allow him to retire a rich man, if he can just keep his colorful factory-floor staff from wrecking the deal through gross incompetence.

Add to this mix Mila Kunis as a sexy grifter who seizes on a publicized workplace accident to get a job at Renyolds and begin ripping off the employees, and Ben Affleck (all scraggy long hair and oily beard) as Joel's pal and confidant, a man for which there is a drug for any occasion. That's a pretty good set-up for a comedy, right? Instead of blossoming into something special, Extract becomes a clumsily executed illustration of what happens when dumb plot overruns character.

You see, almost nothing that happens in Extract beyond the set-up is remotely believable. Joel must be a smart guy — he's running a successful business he started, after all — yet his best plan for dealing with his marital strife is to hire one of Affleck's friends to pose as the pool boy and seduce his wife. See, because if she cheats first then he'll be absolved of guilt if he manages to bed Kunis. That seems reasonable. Uh huh. The film also takes fleeting shots at social commentary, involving the factory workers ridiculous attempt to unionize. (If I were in a union, I might find this dim-bulb portrayal of working people offensive.)

The biggest problem here (aside from the stupid plot) is that Judge completely misuses his cast. Kristin Wiig in particular is given almost nothing to do, with many of her scenes with Bateman cut right before her turn to speak. Kunis' character exists only to move the plot, as she has no back story, no future and only a barely defined present. Everyone else performs admirable, but the film keeps making them do stupid things that just aren't that funny.

I want to be a fan of Mike Judge. Beavis and Butt-Head, Judge's cartoon about a pair of dim-witted juvenile delinquints who enjoy frog baseball and watching music videos, was a favorite of mine in the mid-90s. In 1997, Judge created King of the Hill, an animated sitcom about Texas propane salesman Hank Hill that is light years ahead of Beavis in terms of quality and intelligence. King of the Hill showed Judge growing as a storyteller who understood white-bread, middle-American life. Then Judge made Office Space, one of the defining films of the late-'90s tech-boom era and a cult classic ever since. It was a hell of a run. Since then, though, his film output has consisted only of two bad movies in 10 years. One more strike and you're out, Mike.

Mike Judge's Extract is an annoying movie instead of a funny one. Pitched as a return by the director to the workplace comedy of Office Space, Extract instead suffers from the same faults as Judge's last film, the Luke Wilson flop Idiocracy. Both flicks have appealing casts and hint at good movies that could be made from the same material, but they are ultimately ruined by silly plot devices and lame characterizations. In the 10 years since Office Space, Judge has regressed as a film maker.


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