Mike Judge, ten years ago (yes, ten years), delivered an infinitely quotable, reserved comedy in OFFICE SPACE, and though I did not love it as much as everyone else, it did a pretty good job of stretching a simple concept into some pretty funny jokes, though a weak movie on the whole. Well, unfortunately, now with his new film EXTRACT, he’s taken even weaker concepts, thrown them together hastily, put in less funny jokes, and put it in a less familiar environment. Well, if that isn’t a recipe for success I don’t know what is.
The problem is, expectations were high for this when news of the film came out. Jason Bateman is doing incredible things in comic performances since his resurgence with “Arrested Development,” and this film has him starring as Joel, the owner and manager of his own extract manufacturing company, trying to keep the company afloat amongst a slew of problems (just like Michael Bluth in “Arrested”). Ben Affleck is back in the comedy saddle (though underused) as his bartending friend, Dean, who believes in self-medication of all kinds to get Joel through his problems, both at the plant and with his wife. Said wife is played by Kristen Wiig, great in KNOCKED UP and “SNL,” and is also not given any room to work her magic.
Joel’s big problems at the plant involve a possible crippling lawsuit from an employee who loses a testicle (testicle humor is good for a couple laughs). He’s sexually frustrated by a wife whose sweatpants drawstring locks out any chance for romance. And his attempt to hire a gigolo to sleep with her to absolve him of guilt in going after the plant hottie (MILA KUNIS, also not allowed to be as funny as she can be) also backfires on him. All of which come off as thrown together concepts on par with the SUPERMAN 3 computer theft idea thrown into the middle of OFFICE SPACE.
Some actors are given decent bits. David Koechner (also funny in this summer’s THE GOODS: LIVE HARD, SELL HARD) plays the annoying neighbor for some good laughs relating to awkward moments in neighborhood etiquette. Dustin Milligan plays the gigolo for some obvious, though still funny, dumb jokes. And surprisingly, Gene Simmons (yes, the one from KISS) gets some good laughs as a commercial/bus bench lawyer. But the big let down is the lack of laughs coming at us from Jason Bateman. It certainly makes us (and should make him) long for the proposed “Arrested Development” movie. But for swinging and missing with a cast like this Mike Judge should be punished… perhaps by a marathon of “King of the Hill.” Yeah, not a fan of that either.