I'm a bit late writing this review, and the box-office and critical reception seems to be underwhelming for Extract, but it's a perfect comedy about crazy people and normal people acting like idiots. The Goods wanted to be this movie, in terms of the areas of comedy mined, but didn't quite find its footing.
Extract is funny from the opening moments, in a quiet, understated way, with over-the-top elements which also work well, much like director Mike Judge's earlier classic Office Space. It's a smidge less funny than Office Space, but more grown-up and well constructed.
And like the current Taking Woodstock, this is largely due to a winningly credulous performance from its lead actor, Demetri Martin in Woodstock, and the great, and much more experienced actor Jason Bateman in Extract.
Bateman plays Joel Reynold, a chemist and entrepreneur who discovered a way to prolong the flavor experience of different kinds of extracts, and who now runs a successful extract production company being eyed for a windfall takeover by General Mills. This despite the crew of misfits who keep causing industrial accidents at the factory.
The wonderful Kristen Wiig ("SNL," Walk Hard) plays Joel's wife Suzie, who signals her lack of interest in sex with Joel by donning her sweatpants early in the evening. Mila Kunis ("That '70s Show") plays Cindy, a drifter/con-artist whose interest in Joel causes the major crisis of the film, as he gets high on Special K and decides to hire a gigolo, Brad (Dustin Milligan, pluperfect), to seduce his wife and give him the excuse to cheat he's looking for.
Ben Affleck, who also appeared in this year's State of Play along with Bateman in a catchy supporting role, plays Joel's friend Dean, the druggie bartender who accidentally lends Joel the Special K.
Affleck's great here, as he was very good in State of Play, and the reversal of roles with Bateman in the lead feels much more well-balanced than the general state of affairs in that movie. In both films, Affleck signaled his graduation from pretty-boy roles, in which he was sometimes effective, to aging, dissolute pretty-boy roles, for which he shows a marked talent. Affleck and Bateman have a brilliant marijuana paranoia scene together, with a classic punchline which helps put the film's humor over the edge toward greatness.
Extract also features great supporting work from Gene Simmons as a shady lawyer, J.K. Simmons as the factory manager, David Koechner (insufferable in The Goods, just right here) as an annoying neighbor of Joel's, Beth Grant (Donnie Darko) as a know-it-all who holds up the factory's production line, and Clifton Collins, Jr. (Star Trek), in his best role to date as her unfortunate victim. Director Judge has a very funny cameo of his own.
Extract feels like a real stretch for Mike Judge into more adult, character-driven fare, and it's welcome. His sense of humor and wont for wild plot developments which actually have meaningful depth are on ample display, along with an ability to create instantly recognizable caricatures which are funny and not one-note, and he continues to show his flair for directing real actors, rather than just cartoons (which he also does well).
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