Monday, June 18, 2012

Funny And Quirky, Extract Makes For A Worthwhile Diversion!

The Good: Good acting, Very funny, Moments that are clever
The Bad: A lot of very obvious humor, Light on character development.
The Basics: A surprisingly decent film, the short Extract is worth seeing for anyone who likes zany humor presented by a great cast.

It is a good time to be David Koechner, at least in my house. The character actor is in a boatload of my wife's DVDs and it seems like whenever I take her out to the movies, he is in them lately (whatwith my wife’s love of screwball, often idiotic, comedies). He had an oddly homophobic (literally) role in The Goods: Live Hard Sell Hard which we saw just a few weeks ago. He now pops up in Extract, the new film by Mike Judge and it is easy to see why he continues to get work.

Koechner is a steady supporting actor who has an amazing ability to play off virtually any other actor. He always seems to have such earnest, eye-popping deliveries of his line (he is often given over-the-top moments to perform and he plays them brilliantly by usually understating them, so if the moment calls for an absolutely absurd line, he says it as if it were the most obvious matter-of-fact statement, etc.) and in Extract, he continues that tradition as Nathan. And every scene he is in with Jason Bateman's Joel, Koechner steals the scene.

Joel owns an extract company and he returns home from it each night hoping to score with his wife. More often than not, he is held up by his neighbor, Nathan, for pointless conversations that waste his time and he finds his wife not in the mood. So, he returns to work the next day trying to get out of the humdrum life he finds himself in. Unfortunately, when one of his workers is partially-castrated as part of a work-related accident, Joel finds his company is in serious trouble. Things do not get better for him at work with the arrival of con-artist Cindy, whom he takes an instant shine to. Neither do things get better for him at home when he allows his bartender friend Dean to hook him up with some drugs and a witless plan to get his wife, Suzie, to cheat.

As Step sues Reynolds Extract, Joel tries to get the business in line for a sale so he can get out while the getting is still good enough. As Dean's plan to test his wife's faithfulness (or lack thereof) is put into motion with the help of a gigolo, Joel tries to avoid being scammed by Cindy and still considers her for an affair. As his business and personal lives crumble, Joel begins to slip into morally murky territory and he struggles to solve his problems in all of the worst ways.

In many ways, Extract is a pretty standard slapstick/gross-out humor film filled with one-liners and abrupt character turns that are either painful or leave the viewer groaning for how stupidly the character is acting. What brings this particular movie up is that it is actually funny and the caliber of the acting. Joel may be a morally problematic character, but he is well-played by Jason Bateman who manages to do more with the role than simply stare blank-faced and look dumfounded by the changes in circumstance surrounding him. In other words, Bateman delivers a funny performance that is not simply a recapture of his role from Arrested Development.

As well, Extract has a number of funny lines and some great cameos. Following losing a testicle, Step's appearances are often accompanied by his lawyer, Joe. Joe is played by rocker Gene Simmons and his ability to deadpan is surprisingly deft. He plays the lawyer - whose threat menace Reynolds Extract - who represents Step in his workplace accident and his performance raises the caliber of his scene to something more than just a collection of lost balls jokes. Simmons holds his own in a pretty fabulous cast.

Similarly, Mila Kunis and Kristen Wiig once again prove they are more than just hot bodies on screen. Kunis plays Cindy with an understated ruthlessness that make her the ultimate con artist. For sure, Cindy uses sex appeal often to get what she wants, but through the course of Extract, Kunis is required to do more than just look good and she holds that up admirably. Put in some of the film's scenes that include the funniest lines, she remains wonderfully pokerfaced. Similarly, Wiig gives a supporting performance that allows her to use some charm and reveal her great sense of timing to get the most out of some lines that have only mediocre inherent humor.

Even so, writer and director Mike Judge does a good job of translating to screen an offbeat situation told with some deliciously specific writing. So, for example, management at Reynolds Extract seldom knows the actual names of the workers on the floor and so they just call people "dinkus." As the company gets into more dire straits, the fact that Joel and his lieutenant, Brian, do not grow out of this is increasingly funny.

The movie develops the situation more than the characters and some of the characters are more "types" than individuals. Chief among these is Dean, who is more the archetype of the stoner, drug dealer than an individual. He is played by Ben Affleck without much wit and the slack-jawed, half-closed eyes performance is exactly what one expects from this archetype. Similarly, Nathan is the nosy neighbor, Suzie is the unsatisfied wife and Brian is the loyal sidekick. Joel does not so much grow and change throughout the movie as he does watch his dreams slip farther and farther out of his reach.

In addition to being light on characters, because virtually all of the characters are unlikable, the plot seems remarkably simple. We don't honestly care if Joel makes a fortune or loses everything and the saving grace of this uncomplicated movie is that it is short. Extract entertains with verbal humor and a bit of slapstick physical comedy and it does what it is doing quickly. The result is an entertaining movie that makes for an enjoyable evening, even if it is not enduringly great.

For other works with Jason Bateman, please check out my reviews of:
The Change-Up
Horrible Bosses
The Switch
Couples Retreat
The Invention Of Lying
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Smokin' Aces
Arrested Development


For other movie reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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