The Popcorn Reel
Tuesday, September 8, 2009



You Think You Have Problems?  This Movie Has A Few.
By Omar P.L. Moore/    SHARE
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 filmmaker himself.

"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.

Copyright 2009.  The Popcorn Reel.  All Rights Reserved.   


Home   Features   News   Movie Reviews  Audio Lounge  Awards Season  The Blog Reel  YouTube Reel  Extra Butter  The Dailies