Mike Judge’s new movie, essentially an almost direct followup to Office Space, is a quirky and well-meaning comedy that strikes many of the right notes but in the end falls a bit flat and ends up with very little to show for it’s efforts. The film covers pretty familiar territory for Judge and as such doesn’t seem quite as fresh as perhaps it did when Office Space was released. The cast, with the notable exceptions of David Millgan as the male gigolo hired by Jason Bateman’s character to seduce his wife, the always awesome J.K. Simmons and, surprisingly, Ben Affleck as a helpful bartender and friend to Bateman’s character, are mostly relegated to sitcom level schtick and not given much else to do. And in the case of Mila Kunis, are simply the eye-candy — a role she plays very well, however.
Sure, many of the lines and situations in the film elicit a chuckle and in some cases, cause the viewer to laugh out loud, but those moment a few and far between. Instead, we’re left with many attempts at humor that fall flat and leave me to wonder what Judge was thinking. Some gags in the film are particularly overused — the “pushy neighbor” comes to mind — and result in not only being unfuny but annoying to the audience as well.
Judge, in fact, may have felt the “pushy neighbor” gag too annoying as well given his final solution to the “pushy neighbor” problem. That soultion, sadly, came directly out of left field and although many in the audience found it funny, it made no real sense in the context of the film and just felt thrown in with most of the other seemingly random events of the movie.
In truth, that’s one of the problems with this film. Many events in it make no real sense or feel just “thrown in” to see what happens. The film is mostly a series of occurrances and scenes where characters do things that are not really propelled by the story but instead seem given to them just so they have something to do.
That’s not to say the film is entirely devoid of comedy or a story. There is a slight story about a guy with no sex life and a wife who wears sweat pants (another funny yet overused gag). He loves making extract but thinks he should sell the company. He also decides that he really wants to sleep with the new girl at the factory (Mila Kunis) but wants to not feel guilty about it. So, he hires a male giggalo to try and seduce his wife so that if she strays, Bateman’s character won’t feel bad about cheating on her.
Are you following all of that? If you’re having trouble it may be because Bateman’s plan is concocted during a drug-enduced haze and as such, doesn’t have much in the way of logic. Or, it may be because its a rather lame idea that has no chance of working at all. Although, we never have a chance to find out because in another series of coincidences, it turns out that Kunis’ character, in addition to being a con woman, is actually staying at the very same motel as Bateman’s character does after he leaves his wife. So, Bateman discovers her lies and confronts her, thus ending her scams and also his chances of sleeping with her.
Perhaps I’m being too hard on the film but one coincidence piled on another just isn’t a story. Random chance should not be a motivator in a movie, at least not very often. But in this film, it happens . . . a lot. It may also be because I’m remembering Office Space fondly, so comparisons to it will inevitably show Extract to to be inferior in many ways.
Or, it may be that, like other filmmakers in the past, Judge has lost that certain something that sparked his creativity in the first place. Perhaps what drove him to make Office Space in the first place, the anger and frustration of a mundane existence as a cubical monkey, is now abscent from his life.
His success may have robbed him of the one thing that made Ron Livingston’s character in Office Space far superior to Jason Bateman’s in Extract: Anger. In Office Space, Livingtson’s character is angry at the way his corporate masters treat him and he decides to just not go to work anymore. And there’s also a plan to steal money from the company using a plan lifted right out of Superman 3, but that’s not as important.
In Extract, Bateman’s character mostly reacts to situations and lets others tell him what to do. His wife, his business associate, his employees, even his bartender are more in charge of his life than he is. This is a shame because Jason Bateman is usually very good and capable of much more than he’s allowed to do here.
The breakout star of this film is, shockingly, Ben Affleck who’s easy charm and manner make his character one of the most enjoyable and fleshed out in the film. He steals every scene in which he appears and reminds us why we liked the actor in the first place. Perhaps its because the pressure is off and he doesn’t have to carry the entire film on his shoulders, but Affleck proves his comedic and dramatic chops here in what I consider the best performance of his career.
Because of my fondness for Office Space, Idiocracy and yes, even Beavis and Butt-head, I probably thought, and hoped, Extract would continue the tradition of funny, insightful and entertaining offerings from Judge. Sadly, it doesn’t. Its not that Extract is a bad film, it isn’t. In many ways, it’s better and funnier than most other films out there. Its just doesn’t rank among Judge’s best films. But maybe, at this point in time and in his career, that’s too much to ask?