Like a typical workday, ‘Extract’ just a mediocre endeavor

By Andy Tybout


Starring: Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck, Mila Kunis

Directed by: Mike… “Extract”

Starring: Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck, Mila Kunis

Directed by: Mike Judge

Miramax Films


If a comedy makes you laugh, does the plot even matter?

This is the central question of “Extract,” Mike Judge’s (“King of the Hill,” “Office Space”) latest romp, and depending which side you take, you might find this movie either a comedic triumph or a meandering failure.

“Extract,” Judge’s latest film after 2006’s anti-intellectualism satire “Idiocracy,” features an original, if puzzling, premise: Joel (Jason Bateman of “Arrested Development”) runs into trouble when a worker in his extract factory suffers an uproariously graphic accident (which I won’t mention here).

Joel’s problems are exacerbated when the worker decides to sue for a large sum of money at the urging of a mysterious and hot co-worker (Mila Kunis). The co-worker, of course, is a con girl, and she’s looking to reap the monetary benefits of the worker’s lawsuit while simultaneously seducing Joel, the boss (though why she wants to do the latter is never quite clear).

Other problems in Joel’s life, like his lack of marital excitement and the ideas of his invariably misguided friend (played by a bearded Ben Affleck), accelerate his inevitable decline.

“Extract” follows in the acclaimed director’s tradition of trying to engender hilarity by hurling absurd amounts of sh*t into that proverbial fan — in this film, as in his others, events transpire primarily to devastate the main character. But in “Extract,” the fall from grace is less gracefully accomplished — rather than plunging full on into a comedic hell, Joel seems to suffer a slow, laborious decline.

The movie goes up when it should go down and stands still when it should plunge ahead. This muddled pace — a byproduct of poor writing — is what keeps the film from being the delightfully crafted descent into mundane yet maddening hilarity that was “Office Space.”

But here’s the rub: The movie is often funny. Not as funny as “Office Space” or “Idiocracy,” but ticklish enough to please almost any audience. There are scenes — particularly a weed-smoking session — that build perfectly into a climax of hilarity. And fans can rest assured that Judge’s impeccable eye for annoying characters is still as sharp as ever — the nagging neighbor (David Koechner) and the moronic male gigolo (Dustin Milligan) are perhaps some of the movie’s biggest strengths.

But the plot is vague. The motivations are vague. Even the movie’s trailer is vague (watch it), which should say something about the movie. Only once, when Judge makes a half-hearted attempt at interjecting a blue-collar vs. white-collar conflict into some of the scenes, does the movie ever approach social satire.

But even this potentially ripe dynamic gets lost, like all the other jokes, in the muddle of a plot that seems more convoluted than zany. Rather than rallying the comedy around a concrete idea (corporate malaise, for instance, or American stupidity), Judge uses an extract factory as an excuse for jokes.

There’s still enjoyment to be found in “Extract,” but Judge’s undiminished humor can’t compete with his diminished sense of plot. So, to answer the original question, does the plot matter in a comedy?

Yes, it does. Like lyrics in a captivating song, the plot gives the comedy purpose and, often times, adds a new dimension to the humor. Judge chose instead to make “Extract” a font in which to pour all his stray jokes, plot be damned.

If that’s okay with you — if you’re not bothered by 91 minutes of “Family Guy”-style humor — then you’ll probably get a kick out of this movie.

If not, then you can always just rent “Office Space” on Netflix.