If I’ve learned anything about Mike Judge’s work over the years, it’s not to trust first impressions. Beavis and Butt-head seemed stupid until you latched onto its smarts about teen stupidity. Office Space seemed merely mildly amusing until it became the kind of movie you always stop on when channel-surfing. Even his ambitious, uneven Idiocracy includes its share of memorable moments. So, when I say that Extract just feels like a satisfyingly goofy entertainment, take it with a grain of salt.
Joel Reynolds (Jason Bateman) runs a food-flavoring business that could be ripe for a life-changing corporate buyout. But, life doesn’t feel as sweet as it should: Joel’s relationship with his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) has turned sexless, and an employee (Clifton Collins, Jr.) has just suffered a “mid-body” workplace injury. The arrival of hot new temp worker Cindy (Mila Kunis) could be just what Joel needs—if she weren’t actually a scheming, inveterate thief.
Part of what makes Judge such an acquired taste is that his sense of humor can swing from Sahara-dry to broadly crude. Bateman and Wiig are a perfect match for the former sensibility, providing the incredulous reaction takes to the morons around them. And Judge is always in top form when dealing with life’s idiots, as he is here both with Joel’s bartender buddy, Dean (a surprisingly sly Ben Affleck), and the gigolo Joel hires to test Suzie’s fidelity (Dustin Milligan). Even the throwaway gag of the misplaced apostrophe in “Reynold’s Extracts” feels like one of Judge’s droll commentaries on accepted dumbing-down.
It would be much easier to embrace Judge’s work if his sense of pacing weren’t always so suspect. His comedy seems mostly to be about odd little moments, not necessarily building towards anything. Whenever Extract veers away from Joel’s anxieties, it kinda grinds to a halt.
But, give it a year or two for the flavors to mix. A few viewings down the road, it might seem like a damned work of art.
Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig