Tuesday, September 08, 2009

EXTRACT

More than just straight comedy, Mike Judge's Extract is a loving farce on the risk/reward system that drives the successful small business. Ultimately, independent extract factory owner Joel (Jason Bateman) gets through the tornado of trial lawyers, sexy con women, hairnet hysteria, and marital strain with a still thriving company on his hands. Okay, so perhaps that's not the typical week of your average shop around the corner, but a condensed lifetime - or even year or two - of those hair-greying travails is what Judge is offering up here. It's all anchored by the light unassuming goofiness of Jason Bateman, turning in a performance that's a little more human than his perpetually frustrated Michael Bloom in Arrested Development (surely Judge saw a fit when eyeing Bateman in that role).

Extract is also an appreciation of the communal bedrock foundation that a small business can provide, a characteristic that often goes unrepresented in the big dealings of Hollywood. Joel's drive to invent (as a kid, he wanted his grandma's cookies to taste better... so he damn well went out and did it!) and his passion to bring that to the marketplace, folds out into a benefit for many. Joel is not only a provider of product, he's a provider of stability for the employees who work for him. Yes, there may be a big cloud of "sigh" hanging over his head each time he peers out from that executive window onto the work floor and sees bickering and his bottom line backing-up, but it's a familial kind of irritation, one that comes with unconditional appreciation.

Alongside Extract's acknowledgment of a private enterprises' workplace responsibility and wider economic impact is Judge's recurring philosophy of individualism. As usual, this is offered up in comic form, be it Kristen Wiig's work-from-home coupon designer, Ben Affleck's bar owner, Mila Kunis' hustler, Javier Gutierrez's illegal immigrant, or - most oddly affecting - in Dustin Milligan's cuddly gigolo character who goes through Joel's ringer of being employed, fired, paid-off, called a whore, and then employed again. Of course, it will be near impossible for Judge to ever top that celebration of individualism on display in the "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta" montage from Office Space, but it's exactly that freedom loving walk-the-Earth euphoria that always makes his characters so appealing.

So, if Extract has been met with a shrug and a "eh" by both critics and audiences alike, it's because Mike Judge's individual and outsider status still shows all over his work like the face of a nice, easy going fella who still can't believe people care so much about what he does. Perhaps it's a matter of the Extract trailer not being representative of what the film actually is. It's not as broad as to concern itself with the character archs of Kristen Wiig or Mila Kunis. This is a one character movie. It could just as easily have been called Joel, as I suppose Office Space and Idiocracy could have equally been tagged Peter and Joe (or, Not Sure). However, there does continually seem to be an issue with the way Judge ends his films, as if he had so much fun getting to a place that he then doesn't know quite how to get out. It can feel unsatisfying.

But I tell ya what, in this era of bail outs, clunkers, and economic columnist warfare where back-and-forth bickering seems to have replaced any discussion of exit theory, Extract is a refreshing and accessible little movie about recovery in spite of troubled assets.

18 comments:

Marilyn said...

I've actually read nothing but good things about this film. It's on my "to-see" list. Thanks, Fox, for giving me another reason to see it.

Fox said...

Thanks Marilyn.

I was wondering this morning how the film was doing - ticket sales wise - outside of where I am (Judge's turf). Because, at the theater I was in, there was a good crowd, but then I saw it bombed this weekend overall. Granted, it's only on 1600 screens vs. Inglourious Basterds 3300, but still, the numbers seemed disappointingly low.

Maybe you can take 2000 of your fellow Chicagoans to go see it and boost sales just like that!

BTW... have you liked either of Judge's other films?

Marilyn said...

Is there a soul alive who doesn't like Office Space?

Not a Beavis & Butthead fan, though.

bill r. said...

I feel bad for not seeing this yet. I'm one of those guys who bitches about Judge getting dumped by studios on his last two films, and now that one gets a real release, so far I can't be bothered. And I likes me some Mike Judge, so I don't know what's holding me back.

Fox said...

Bill-

I figured you woulda been one of the first two see Extract. I gather you will be doing so this weekend, correct?

Tom Drew said...

Bluth. He was Michael Bluth.

I love Arrested Development.

bill r. said...

Fox - I probably won't see it this weekend, actually. Money suddenly became kinda tight for me this week, so Extract will still have to wait until next Saturday, at least.

Fox said...

Tom-

Thanks for that! I must have had Rushmore on my mind.

Farenheit 16:9 said...

To me it was a rather stillborn movie with a few chuckles and intriguing situations. I felt the "problems" were solved so easily that it didn't seem there was much of any conflict.

Rick Olson said...

This looked terrible in the trailers on TV. I'm glad you like it, I actually trust your taste. Most of the time.

Except for your inexplicable lapse in judgment vis a vis District 9, which I consider the best movie of the Summer.

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