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Sucking out the flavor

Mike Judge’s Extract is dull and lifeless

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Extract is some of the dullest work of Mike Judge’s career.

Maybe having his movies mistreated by studios is actually good for Mike Judge; his first two live-action films, 1999’s Office Space and 2006’s Idiocracy, were poorly marketed box-office failures, yet both have become genuine cult classics in subsequent years. Now that Miramax is giving a proper release to his latest effort, Extract, Judge has delivered some of the dullest material of his career. Both Office Space and Idiocracy were strident, sometimes unfocused satires, but they found Judge with clear targets in his comedic sights. With Extract, he abandons political commentary for the more low-key human comedy of his successful animated series King of the Hill, but rather than exude the warmth and affection that Hill built up over the course of its 13 seasons, Extract is prickly and unpleasant, only without any valid outlet for its misanthropy.

Instead we just get a bunch of amiable dimwits bumbling through life making stupid decisions. Hill had something to say about the importance of family and traditional values, but no one in Extract seems to care about much of anything. At least Joel (Jason Bateman) takes some pride in the extract-manufacturing company he built from scratch, starting with his grandmother’s recipes to build up a food-flavoring success story. But as the movie opens, he’s primed to sell the company that’s become a burden rather than a blessing, and is unhappy in his marriage to a humorless wife (Kristen Wiig) who’s lost interest in sleeping with him.

The Details

Extract
Two stars
Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Ben Affleck, Kristen Wiig.
Directed by Mike Judge
Rated R
Beyond the Weekly
Extract
Rotten Tomatoes: Extract
IMDb: Extract

Joel’s world is ... well, it’s not exactly turned upside down, because the movie is too lackadaisical for that, but it’s slightly altered by both a freak accident that robs one of his employees of a testicle and the arrival of hot new temp Cindy (Mila Kunis), who also happens to be an accomplished thief and grifter. The movie meanders down several dead ends while exploring Joel’s desire to have an affair (aided by his smarmy bartender buddy, played by Ben Affleck), Cindy’s efforts to con the injured employee into suing Joel’s company and even Joel’s ploys to avoid his whiny, annoying neighbor (David Koechner). None of these threads amounts to much, and Judge shies away from exploring any real darkness in Cindy’s criminal activity or Joel’s potential infidelity.

What starts out like Judge’s version of a Coen brothers movie, all deadpan scheming and amoral intrigue (past Coen players J.K. Simmons and Beth Grant even show up in supporting roles), instead ends up toothless and inconsequential. The dialogue is limp, the jokes are stale, and the set pieces rarely pay off. Bateman does the affable everyman as well as he always has, but a straight man isn’t worth much without decent comedic foils. Saturday Night Live’s Wiig, who’s stolen many a scene in recent years, here is only dowdy and put-upon, and Kunis, so alluring and fresh in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, never defines Cindy’s appeal. For someone who’s created so many memorable, quotable minor characters over the years, Judge proves disappointingly unable to bring any of them to life this time around. By the time Gene Simmons shows up as a shyster lawyer, it’s clear Judge is just throwing anything out there to see what sticks.

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