Extract (2009)

If you were to ask me what the problem with Extract was, I’d find it difficult to give you a quick answer. Similarly, if you wanted me to tell you what, specifically, I liked about it, I would once again be unable to right away. This is the type of film that plays and you watch it, but nothing seems to matter, little resonates, and you walk away realizing that, yes, you did watch a film, and it wasn’t a bad film, but it just didn’t have anything really going for it.

Perhaps it would resonate if you work in a factory. Even if you don’t, you’ll understand the stereotypes: There are a couple of chatty ladies, the uncaring punk rocker, the immigrant who doesn’t speak a lick of English, the boss who doesn’t know a single employees name, and so on. Those of you who have worked in a factory setting will probably recognize someone you know or knew in these roles, and whatever their actions, you’ll probably find them funny. That is, unless you want real people, as director/writer Mike Judge takes the stereotypes too far and makes these people cartoon characters instead of relatable human beings.

The factory is owned by a character named Joel (Jason Bateman), who has built it up from nothing to a pretty successful business. There have been sacrifices, like bimonthly sex with his wife, Suzie (Kristen Wiig), but he’s generally a happy guy, apart from the lack of sex. He is thinking about selling the company, though, even though an accident just occurred which involved a worker losing an important part of himself. A con woman, Cindy (Mila Kunis), tries to get the man to sue for damages, while also trying to cozy up to Joel.

He wants to cheat on his wife with her, but would feel guilty. After a drug-fueled night with his friend, the bartender named Dean (Ben Affleck), he hires a man to have an affair with her. Meanwhile, the lawsuit is going through, Cindy’s up to no good, and everything seems to be spiraling out of control. There’s a surprising amount of material going on within Extract, although most of it comes and goes, never properly connecting or seeming coherent. You know, like an actual film might.

What Extract feels like are a bunch of scenes that might play well on Saturday Night Live. You could focus an entire episode based around the various subplots contained within this film, and the lack of coherency would actually help given the format. In a feature-length film, however, it feels disjointed and never quite comes together. The Kunis character, despite initially being set-up as a major player, is relegated to the background, but then pops up now and then like she’s the star of the picture.

I had to wonder if she was originally a bit player, but then had more scenes added in as filming commenced. The opening scene, in which she steals a guitar, sets her up as a master thief even if that skill is rarely utilized. It’s hard to even figure out what her ultimate plan is, as she isn’t given quite enough screen time to make that clear for us. Despite this, she’s given too much time, clearly making her more prominent than the other members of the supporting cast.

Essentially, Extract is a mess. It’s a kind of enjoyable mess, granted, but a mess is still something that needs cleaning up. I’m not sure if it was originally much longer than its 90 minute running time, or if it was significantly different in the screenplay, but what we get is a semi-coherent movie trying to take big swings but striking out at most opportunities. You almost want to applaud the effort, but then you realize it’s playing in the minor leagues and still failing, and you just want to see it hang up the cleats for good.

The one undeniably funny and poignant aspect of Extract comes from an annoying neighbour played by David Koechner. You know this type of person, the one who approaches you every time he sees you, doesn’t let you leave even after making it clear that you’re busy, and corners you into going to events with him that you would rather avoid. Koechner plays the role perfectly, even if he, like Kunis, disappears too frequently to really make an impact. But his scenes, while grating, are still the best parts of the movie, sad as that is.

Really, this is Bateman’s film, and while he’s kind of sympathetic, he never felt real. I couldn’t believe that his character would make all of these decisions, nor could I understand them most of the time. Sure, it’s a comedy, so it doesn’t always have to make sense, but when it’s not particularly funny in the first place, it needs to come close. I liked Affleck as the stoner/bartender/best friend, and it was fun to see J.K. Simmons, Dustin Milligan, Gene Simmons and Beth Grant in supporting roles, but nothing comes together and it’s not all that funny.

Extract needed more coherency, sharper jokes, and perhaps less going on in order to be a great film. As it is, it’ll play and be generally non-threatening, but you’ll question why exactly you should give it 90 minutes of your life. It has some great moments, some interesting characters, and even a couple of humorous situations, but on the whole makes little sense and fails at both a comedy and a satire. I can’t give you a reason to watch Extract.

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