‘Extract’: No artifical sweetner

extract“Extract” is exactly the film you’d expect from the creator of “King of the Hill,” though not from the director of “Office Space” or “Idiocracy.”

Mike Judge, of course, is both, and has earned himself modest mainstream success for his television show and cult idolatry for his live-action, big-screen ventures. The rumors of 20th Century Fox’s mishandling of “Idiocracy” is legendary, and “Office Space” was ignored in theaters but had eventually risen to usurp Dilbert as the king of comedy for the cubicle-dwelling masses.

Both films have rightfully earned their devotees, but were a bit more broad in their execution (especially “Idiocracy”) than his most recent release, which echoes the sweet-natured, working class humor of his animated series. In fact, it has been quite a while since a comedy has felt this real, this organic, without resorting to zany antics for its yuks. Even a workplace accident in which a character loses part of an appendage that reads like a Farrelly Brothers comedic fever dream, is treated with care and respect, and without relying on an endless stream of obvious gags on the matter.

The ever-reliable Jason Bateman is Joel, the put-upon owner of a small-but-successful food additive company in which the above mentioned accident takes place. This disrupts plans for a possible acquisition deal and prompts the attention of a curvy grifter.

Joel’s home life is no better, with a stalled marriage, overbearing neighbors and hopes of early retirement quickly dissolving. Joel’s only escape is perhaps the one person who could most likely do even more damage, his carefree comrade Dean (played by Ben Affleck, who could pass as the Son of The Dude). Dean is convinced most of life’s problems can be settled by some sort of illegal drug use, which usually leads to ill-advised plots and schemes.

After an evening involving horse tranquilizers, Dean and Joel reach the conclusion that a gigolo would be the perfect solution to settling Joel’s marital issues. Things go about as well as expected, but not as wildly exaggerated as one may assume. And that’s the essence of “Extract,” which may disappoint those expecting wild and wacky workplace misadventures populated with a zany crew of warehouse misanthropes. But by taking matters with subtle swipes and gentle jabs, Judge allows the comedy to surface from more fundamental sources.

It’s to the film’s advantage that those delivering the goods are as skilled as its supporting cast, which includes Kristen Wiig as Joel’s unhappy wife, J.K. Simmons as the company’s VP who cannot remember a single employee’s name and simply defaults them to the moniker of Dinkus, and a subdued David Koechner as Joel nagging neighbor.

Mila Kunis also co-stars as an opportunistic new employee who causes Joel to think dirty thoughts, but her characters is a tad too underdeveloped to even matter much here. Her character is merely a catalyst, not a driving force, which is to her benefit as she does not posses the comedic chops to keep up with the rest of the cast.

Some may bemoan the energy level of “Extract’s” laughs, but that it is exactly this what sets it apart and gives the film its authenticity. It’s a silly, mature comedy alternative for those tired of the clatter and forced outrageousness that mark so many of today’s mainstream comedies.

And the fact that “Extract” received a comparatively decent release considering Judge’s last film, is just an added sweetener to this comedic concoction.

~ by usesoapfilm on September 8, 2009.

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