EXTRACT Review

     September 4, 2009

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“Extract” is worth seeing for a multitude of reasons.  It’s one of the funniest movies of the year, it’s Mike Judge’s best film to date, it’s a comedy that has an enjoyable subtext, and there isn’t a single comic performer who doesn’t get a chance to shine, no matter how big their character’s part or the actor’s public recognition.  But the best reason is that you’re watching a comic legend in the making as Jason Bateman gives his finest performance to date.  That’s saying something not only because of his work on “Arrested Development” but in every film he’s managed to steal no matter how little screen-time he had.

Extract movie image Jason Bateman.jpgHonesty may be the best policy but lies and deception make for such better comedy.  Bateman plays Joel, the owner and COO of an extract plant he built from the ground up.  He’s not sure whether to sell his company or how to make the best extracts but he does know one thing: he needs to get laid.  His wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) seems to have no sexual desire and a frustrated Joel finds himself ogling Cindy (Mila Kunis), a new employee who is actually a con-woman trying to find a way to find a way to grab a chunk of the cash that testicular-impaired employee Step (Clifton Collins Jr.) is entitled to after becoming having his testicles impaired by an exploding gasket.  Goaded by his friend Dean (Ben Affleck), Joel’s life spirals out of control into increasingly hilarious situations and the best part is you never quite know how Bateman is going to play it.

Watching the movie, some may see that Bateman is simply reprising his character from “Arrested Development”, but they’re missing the nuance.  At worst, he’s a variation except Michael Bluth never had to worry about incompetent employees, having terrible reactions to illicit drugs, and having a cast that plays entirely to his character.  Everyone in AD got a chance to shine and interact in different ways but watching every supporting character give a terrific comedic performance forces Bateman to up his game and that’s why he delivers the best comedic performance in his career thus far and it’s clear that he’s only just begun.

While Bateman is essential to the film’s success, a lesser actor would still have a deep bench that could carry the film.  I’ve never seen a film with so little deadweight.  You can usually point out one or two supporting actors who disappoint but with “Extract”, you have to search pretty hard.  Even if there’s a character (e.g. Suzie) that doesn’t get a lot of jokes and/or memorable lines, what Judge does with the character and how the actor plays the role makes it all click together.  But other performers almost come close to outdoing Bateman and in the process create unforgettable Extract movie image Mila Kunis.jpgcharacters.  The most memorable is David Koechner’s beyond-irritating neighbor “Nathan” who manages to (arguably) eclipse Gary Cole’s infamous Bill Lumbergh from “Office Space”.  The only thing about these characters which may throw some viewers is that they can drop out for long periods of time rather than having a constant presence in the lead character’s life.  But none of that matters because I can just say this: Gene Simmons is funny in this movie.  That’s magic.

There have been a lot of great comedies this year but the best ones are those with the sharpest observations like “In The Loop” and “World’s Greatest Dad”.  While “Extract” does have satirical influences, it’s not the slicing observations of real-life so much as a fable about how even the smallest of every-day deceptions can lead to outrageous circumstances.  It’s not even so much a matter of “honesty is the best policy” as much as it’s about being polite and cautious at the expense of one’s patience and better judgment.  It may not be the deepest or most incisive statement but it’s why I would put this film a little past “The Hangover”.  They both made me struggle to breathe during their funniest moments, but “Extract” takes that little step but it never slows down any of the comedy no matter how satirical or broad it can be.  The little character tics are fantastic but I’ve also never seen so many testicle jokes in one film.  Even more surprising is that almost all the testicle jokes work.

There are plenty of reasons to see “Extract” and I’ve tried to explain the major ones without spoiling any of the jokes.  But no matter what convinces you to see this movie, you’re missing out if you don’t see what happens when Jason Bateman joins forces with Mike Judge.

Rating —– A-

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