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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.56%
Worth A Look48.72%
Just Average: 35.9%
Pretty Crappy: 7.69%
Sucks: 5.13%

5 reviews, 9 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"King Of The Mill"
4 stars

Although he has found lasting success on television through the instant worldwide phenomenon of “Beavis & Butthead” and the slower-burning “King of the Hill” (which is just about to leave the airwaves after 12 seasons), Mike Judge has always seemed to have an uphill battle when it comes to putting his creative vision on the big screen. Yes, “Beavis & Butthead Do America” (1996) was a big hit but to a large extent, it was still riding the waves of its freakish popularity and few people actually noticed that it was a lot smarter and funnier than one might have expected from a film designed mostly as one last way of cashing in on said popularity. As for his next two features, “Office Space” (1999) and “Idiocracy,” while the former has become an enormous cult favorite over the years and the latter is developing an audience as well, it doesn’t take away from the fact that “Office Space” failed at the box-office, largely because of an ad campaign so dreadful that it practically dared you to pay money to see it, and “Idiocracy” became a textbook example of how not to release a movie--after poor test screenings, Fox shelved it for a while and then dumped it in some random theaters with no advertising, no posters and, if you called MovieFone for times, no title. Now he has returned (ironically in the same Labor Day slot that was the final nail in the coffin for “Idiocracy”) with the new comedy “Extract” since it is a good and funny movie and since it is actually being promoted by its distributor, there is the temptation to praise it to the skies in order to convince people to go and see it because if there is anyone who deserves a commercial hit at this point, it is Judge, who has gradually become one of the smartest, keenest and funniest social satirists at work today. And yet, while I like the film a lot, I have to admit that it is a little more uneven than his other film--it feels at times as if Judge, much like his beleaguered central character, occasionally left early for the day and only later discovered that no one bothered to pick up the slack in his absence.

The film stars Jason Bateman as Joel Reynold, a young man who has taken his ability to make flavor extracts last longer during the cooking process and transformed it into his own business. Unfortunately, success in the extract business has taken a toll on him both professionally--his factory is largely populated by dopes who would much rather spend their time standing around and complaining about how other people aren’t doing their jobs than in doing their own--and personally--by the time he gets home from another long day of work, wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig), who spends her days designing coupons, in no longer much in the mood for anything, if you know what I mean. Therefore, when General Mills comes along with an offer to buy the entire company for a sum considerably over market value, Joe is perfectly content with the idea of cashing out and never having to work again. Unfortunately for him, it is at just this time that, as the result of a chain reaction accident caused by multiple counts of worker incompetence, easy-going employee Step is grievously injured in a particularly horrifying (though hilariously staged) manner. This injury leaves not only Step’s manhood but the future of the buyout in jeopardy unless Joel is assured that Step won’t try to sue for anything more than the already hefty insurance settlement that he is already due.

While waiting out Step’s decision, Joel is further distracted by the arrival of Cindy (Mila Kunis), a super-sexy temp worker who further inflames his already overloaded libido, especially when she appears to be genuinely interested in both himself and his extract empire. While idling describing his theoretical desire for his new employee to bartender pal Dean (Ben Affleck), the latter hits upon what he thinks is a perfect plan--Joel will hire dimwitted local gigolo Brad (Dustin Milligan) to come to his house to seduce Suzie and if it goes according to plan, it will allow Joel to pursue Cindy without feeling any sort of guilt. Yes, this is a terrible plan but Joel, under the influence of a horse tranquilizer he has inadvertently ingested (don’t ask), goes along with it and when he wakes up the next morning and tries to cancel everything, he discovers that not only is he too late to stop the seduction but that Brad has fallen in love with Suzie. To make matters worse, what he doesn’t realize (though we already do) is that Cindy is not the sweet-and-innocent lass that she seems to be--she is actually a con woman whose current scam involves seducing Step and convincing him to sue the company with the aid of a sleazy lawyer (Gene Simmons. . .yes, Gene Simmons) who will entertain only two settlement offers--one that will effectively bankrupt the country or one that will make Joe’s metaphysical castration condition into something extremely physical.

Throughout the years, Mike Judge has demonstrated a comedic sensibility that has set him and his work apart from most of what passes for American comedy these days. For one thing, his films don’t look or sound like most of the current comedies at your local multiplex. Instead of filling the screen with gooney close-ups, broad shtick and rat-a-tat pacing that takes you from one joke to the next so quickly that you often feel as if you are just watching an extra-long trailer, Judge prefers to use a slow-burn approach that lets his comedic material breathe and develop into something really funny instead of just going for the quick gags. Along these same lines, he resists the urge to remind viewers that they are watching a comedy by giving everything a wacky look and instead shoots most everything in a straightforward and realistic manner, reminiscent of the works of Albert Brooks, that enhances the humor instead of burying it. (At the same time, and also like Brooks, Judge is also capable of coming up with inspired and perfectly executed visual gags as well--the best ones here involve Shep’s accident and Joel’s bizarre attempt at smoking pot.) Judge also has a nice ability to flesh out his characters in ways that allow us to subtlety empathize with them instead of simply mocking them. Again, he is perfectly capable of giving us people who are just supposed to be goofy throughout--as Lebowski-in-training Dean, Ben Affleck scores some of the biggest laughs in this respect--but at other times, his refusal to simply look at potentially ridiculous characters as being nothing but ridiculous winds up paying off beautifully. Take the character of Brad, the would-be gigolo. It would have been so easy to just have him come across as a complete idiot throughout and score laughs that way (and Dustin Milligan gets a lot of them) but by having him genuinely fall for Suzie, it adds an extra level that makes his plight even funnier.

The problem with “Extract” is that while the film is at its best when it sticks to its central workplace setting--which allows Judge to amusingly revisit the world of “Office Space” through the eyes of the very same management-level characters that he so effectively skewered in the earlier film and gives Jason Bateman another chance to prove himself as one of the most reliable comedic actors working today--the focus begins to drift when it moves off the factory premises. Part of the problem is that Judge introduces a lot of extraneous characters, plotlines and running jokes and then either abandons them (such as the one in which the clueless factory workers decide that they deserve a cut of the rumored General Mills sale or else they will strike) or never quite figures out how to make them work (an extended bit involving David Koechner as a spectacularly annoying neighbor starts off well and has an amusing payoff but kind of drags along in the middle section). Then there is the fact that aside from one showcase scene each, neither Mila Kunis nor Kristin Wiig have been given material that allows them to show off their comedic gifts to any great extent. The biggest problem is that the final scenes are somewhat disappointing in the way that things pretty much resolve themselves exactly how you would expect them to--after being clever and intelligent for the first two-thirds of its running time, watching it slip into more conventional terrain in the end is a bit of a bummer.

That said, when “Extract” is funny, it is really funny and even when it isn’t quite as funny as that, it is still funnier than most of the so-called comedies currently playing. (Hell, the copyright notice during the end credits here is funnier than the entirety of “All About Steve” and it isn’t even trying to be amusing.) While I may not like it as much of Judge’s other work, that says more about the high quality of his work than anything else and it certainly deserves comparison with his other creations. The only real problem with this one--which is ironic when you consider the substance that revolves around--is that while it tastes pretty good and goes down easily enough, the flavor of the funny doesn’t last quite as long as one might have hoped

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18285&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/04/09 22:00:00
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User Comments

12/05/12 Delbert Loved Office Space and Idiocracy. This was far less than that. 2 stars
9/21/12 roscoe Are you kidding me? This movie sucks ass. I only laughed once. 1 stars
5/08/11 mini me i love this flick. i dont know why but i do 5 stars
1/25/11 mr.mike Much of it is funny (esp. Affleck), but it is still pretty much a TV sitcom. 3 stars
2/23/10 Peter North dry humor is still funny. I'd like to drop some extract inside Mila's Kunis... 4 stars
1/29/10 Dane Youssef Mike Judge strikes out this time. "Extract" is missing some nessicary key ingredients. 2 stars
1/25/10 gc Laughed during Gene Simmons scene, otherwise, pretty lame 2 stars
9/15/09 pEFvGwbddrcvLwXvSw doors.txt;10;15 3 stars
9/10/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Quarter the laughs of a single half-hour "Two and Half Men". Old people getting older. 1 stars
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  04-Sep-2009 (R)
  DVD: 22-Dec-2009


  DVD: 22-Dec-2009

Directed by
  Mike Judge

Written by
  Mike Judge

  Jason Bateman
  Mila Kunis
  Ben Affleck
  Kristen Wiig
  Dustin Milligan
  Clifton Collins Jr.

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