Tuesday, September 8, 2009
You Think You Have Problems? This Movie Has A Few.
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Jason Bateman as Joel and Mila Kunis as Cindy in "Extract",
directed by Mike Judge. (Photo: Sam Urdank/Miramax Film Corp.)
What do a thief, a money-grubbing attorney, a gigolo, a drug-addled husband and
an empty-headed wife have in common? The film "Extract", directed by Mike
Judge provides an inconsistent answer to the question. The comedy, which
opened last Friday in theaters across the U.S. and Canada is a disappointing
effort from the director of "Office Space". Mr. Judge's script is weak,
presenting women -- a criminal, a philandering wife and two nagging employees --
without any sense of completion or background, essentially holograms for a
quick, empty laugh or a target of ridicule and scorn. The film's plot and
internal structure aren't coherent and this is either consistent with the purple
haze of its protagonist played by Jason Bateman or a lackadaisical design of the
"Extract" takes place somewhere in the southern U.S., at a food-flavoring plant
named Reynold's Extract. Owned by Joel (Mr. Bateman), its employees are a
group of dunderheads and when shiftlessness and unaccountability seep into the
plant workers an accident disables one of them -- "Step" (Clifton Collins Jr.)
-- who aspires to be Reynold's floor manager. Meanwhile, a bartender (Ben
Affleck) is peddling drugs and bad advice and an annoying next-door neighbor
(David Koechner) punctuates the near dead-end existence of Joel, who should be
relatively content in his life. Mila Kunis plays Cindy, an attractive
woman whose criminal tendencies are revealed early on yet whom we get to know
little else about. Cindy serves herself up as a sly sexy prop wrapped up
as eye candy more than she serves the underlying story -- and is consequently
underserved and underdeveloped as a character. One is left hollow as Cindy
exits stage left for the final time in Mr. Judge's film. And one of Joel's
right-hand men at the plant is played by J.K. Simmons, who has a funny line
early on and little else, while an attorney hired to sue Reynold's for Step's
mishap is played by Gene Simmons of the veteran rock band KISS -- he at least
has a creepily entertaining cameo.
Overall, wholesale Forrest Gump-like stupidity is presented for laughs here
which is fine, but when a film has nowhere to go with the players it presents as
straw men for the audience to guffaw at it inevitably stagnates.
"Extract", obsessed with all things phallic and testicular falls victim to this;
despite some very funny moments it cannot get out of its own way. Much of
what transpires makes no sense. Miss Kunis' Cindy belongs to another movie
altogether and Mr. Koechner's character could have been written out of the
script entirely. The only reason to see "Extract" at all is for Mr.
Affleck's hilarious cameo as Dean the bartender. A standout here, Mr.
Affleck has become a good character actor (see "Hollywoodland"), infinitely more
interesting than in the lead roles he's taken on (see this year's
"State Of Play"). His moment on Saturday Night Live last
October as MSNBC TV news personality Keith Olbermann will go down as one of the
funniest impersonations and his character in Mr. Judge's film won't be too far
behind as a memorable presence in an otherwise forgettable film.
With: Kristen Wiig.
"Extract" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for
language, sexual references and some drug use. The film's duration is one
hour and 30 minutes.
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