Movie News & Reviews

Judge doesn't give enough in 'Extract'

I've got bad news for you if you couldn't figure this out by watchinghis creations, but Mike Judge (Idiocracy, Beavis andButt-head, etc.) doesn't much like stupid people.

-- Times, trailer, theaters.

Paradoxically, it's so easy to make fun of stupid people it ends upbeing really, really hard, especially because the standard definitionof stupid people is "everyone but me" (like you've never pushed sohard on a pull door your hand busted through the glass like BruceWillis breaking up a terrorist cell). Making fun of the terminallydumb is like beating up a dead guy: everyone can do it and it onlyimpresses the chicks if you act like it was the beating that killedthem.

Wait, that second part doesn't really apply, so let's go back to thefirst. If everyone can do it, when's it worth paying attention to?When your details are so well-observed it stops being about provingyou're the only smart one and starts being about showing how you copewith it. Judge's latest movie Extract shows he's equally adeptat covering his eyes and shaking his head at both the white- andblue-collar work worlds, but it doesn't quite stand up to his bestwork.

Jason Bateman's got problems. His marriage to Kristen Wiig has turnedinto a joyless death-march, his neighbors and employees are stupid,petty oafs, and just as he's ready to sell his flavor extract factory,a freak accident blows off employee Clifton Collins Jr.'s balls,leaving Bateman with the threat of a massive lawsuit.

Bateman's solution to all those problems? Trying to get down with foxynew employee Mila Kunis, of course. Little does he know she's tryingto take him for all she's worth.

But Extract's plot is a lot more convoluted than that. Much ofit involves Bateman failing to enjoy drugs and hiring a gigolo toseduce his own wife. Tragically, this isn't half as sleazy as itsounds — it mostly involves a dirty Ben Affleck passing around pillslike a quarterback who throws tiny pill-shaped footballs that areactually pills — but then, nobody's having much fun in Judge's world.What they've got instead is a sense of frustration so heavy it wouldmake Atlas himself say "Man, that thing is heavy."

Normally, Judge is able to parlay that frustration into some prettyserious laughs, so it's odd when his latest movie isn't terriblyfunny. It's got a lot of little laughs (I'd say "chuckles," but I hatethat word except when it's used as an insulting nickname), but itrarely reaches the heights of Office Space or Idiocracy.

A comedy that's only kinda funny isn't necessarily a death knell ifit's got some interesting business going in the margins, andExtract's got so much marginal activity that it is, for awhile, a liability. Through about the first half of the movie, allthose plot threads are so jumbled up they look like a basket ofsomething a kitten got bored with.

It's just funny enough to keep you with it until those threads startweaving together. That's when Judge starts showing his teeth. Hischaracters are easily duped, mired in their own self-deception,certain that a righteous pair of Cs is going to instantly solve alltheir problems. (I learned the hard way that it won't, but I've got afeeling my luck's gonna improve once I get my new Ds put in nextmonth.) When the people in his world get trapped and desperate, eventhe smart ones end up doing stupid things, and worse yet, sooner orlater they end up realizing just how stupid they've been.

The fact no one's immune from the dumb-bug may explainExtract's soft spot for all the bozos in its clown parade. Ilike movies that bring a distinct perspective to the screen. Thismovie's got that, and it may hold up on repeat viewings. From my firstlook, I wish we'd seen more of Judge's sense of humor, and that ithadn't taken so long in getting to the point.

Grade: B-