Extract (2009)

(In theatres, September 2009) This risqué yet generally amiable comedy by Mike Judge has little of the cubicle universality of Office Space of the striking conceptual strength of Idiocy.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit its appeal and give it little memetic traction.  In less pretentious terms, Extract is easily forgettable even if it’s not unpleasant to watch.  A good chunk of this appeal rests on the shoulders of the capable cast headlining the ensemble comedy.  The lead character of the piece, a harried chemist turned businessman now hitting a mid-life crisis pretty hard, wouldn’t be half as sympathetic if he wasn’t played with the good-boy charm of Jason Bateman.  Gene Simmons pops up as an intense ambulance-chasing lawyer, whereas J.K. Simmons is a bit wasted as a voice of reason in the middle of so much low-key craziness.  Extract’s plot scatters in multiple directions, with a number of small twists when characters don’t behave as they usually do in other comedies.  If the actual execution of the plot is hit-and-miss, Judge’s portrait of American working-class banality is just off-the-wall enough to keep viewers interested.  Time will tell if the film ends up producing as many catchphrases as the writer/director’s previous efforts, but a first glance suggests that this won’t be the case.  On the other hand, Extract does manage to hits its own targets consistently, and if a little more ambition (or class awareness) wouldn’t have hurt, at least there’s something to be said for decent entertainment.

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