I wish I could tell you that "Extract," the latest live-action film from Mike Judge, is another future cult classic, another quote-worthy, blissfully nutty, acquired taste that will slowly but surely gain the audience it didn't get upon initial release.
Unfortunately, unlike his previous films "Office Space" and "Idiocracy," "Extract" doesn't appear to have that it'll-hit-you-a-couple-of-years-from-now certainty. It might hit you right then and there, as it crashes and burns right in front of your eyes.
"Extract" has Jason Bateman, pessimistically bone-dry as ever, as Joel, a self-made businessman who runs his own flavored food extract company. Though it looks as if he's the master of his own universe, he's predictably miserable. His coupon-designing wife (Kristen Wiig) would rather watch "Dancing with the Stars" in her sweatpants than give him some sexual healing. He begins to get the hots for a new temp (Mila Kunis) in his factory. Little does he know that she's a grifter who has been manipulating one of Joel's employees (Clifton Collins Jr.) into suing the company for millions, because he recently lost some -- shall we say -- testicular fortitude after being injured on the job.
Good thing Joel's bartending buddy Dean (Ben Affleck) is around to chill him out, suggesting that Joel take some drugs and accidentally giving him a horse tranquilizer, prompting Joel to call up a dim-witted gigolo buddy of Dean's (Dustin Milligan) to seduce his wife so he can creep around guilt-free.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Anyone looking for the same 9-to-5 loopiness that Judge memorably crafted in "Space" might find himself a little underwhelmed. From the looks of it, "Extract" seems like Judge's working-class take on "American Beauty." But, instead of Bateman's character going on a cleansing, eventually tragic midlife-crisis bender like Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham did, Joel's midlife crisis keeps refusing to start.
Despite his attempts to rid himself of his oppressive surroundings -- gated-community home, withholding wife, annoying next-door neighbor, business full of dingbat employees -- in order to live the life of middle-aged reckless abandon, smoking pot with his boy and pursuing the new hot chick at work, Joel gets roped back into his inescapable existence. In "Extract," responsible adulthood is a recurring, albeit manageable, nightmare.
But I'm making "Extract" sound like a very clever movie. The sad truth is it's just an underdeveloped mess. The comedy is half-cooked at best.
The gags are either grim and random ( Gene Simmons inexplicably shows up as a scuzzy, profane lawyer) or just fail to take off (you'd think having J.K. Simmons play Joel's second-in-command who calls everyone "Dinkus" because he can't remember their names would be funny -- but it's not).
You know this movie is messed up when the funniest moments come from Affleck. (Of course, he is sporting shaggy-long hair and a beard, looking like a skeevy, avant-garde jazz musician.)
And, I've never seen Judge so bitter. It appears that making two films that 20th Century Fox tried to bury has turned the regularly mellow Judge into an authority-defying troublemaker ready to wreak havoc. He even shows up halfway through the film, sporting a potbelly and a cap-covered mullet, ready to lead a strike on behalf of the factory workers.
Judge also seems shockingly bitter in this film toward women, because the only female characters are either dull philanderers, scamming sociopaths or petty chatterboxes who blame everything on their Mexican co-workers. It's hard to believe the same guy who gave us such smart, headstrong cartoon gals as Daria Morgendorffer and Peggy Hill can't seem to create equally multi-dimensional, human ladies here.
Usually, I have nothing against people who use bitterness, frustration and anger to fuel their work. However, if those things aren't reined in properly, they can take over a project. And eventually, you're left with just a big pile of -- as a wise Mike Judge character would say -- dang ol' nothing, man.
It's probably best if you just "Extract" yourself from this situation.