Jason Bateman plays Joel Reynold, owner of a factory that makes long-lasting food flavoring. Joel is in negotiations to sell his extract factory to General Mills, but the deal hits a snag when one of his employees, Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), loses a testicle in a freak industrial accident. Step is convinced to sue the plant by Cindy (Mila Kunis), a nubile young con artist who smells money from the settlement and comes to work at the factory as a temp.
Joel’s problems don’t end there. He’s been driven to a blue-balled frenzy by his wife (Kristen Wiig), who cinches her sweatpants up tight at 8 p.m. sharp and doesn’t let go. Joel wants to sleep with Cindy (and assumes from her mild flirtation that she’s up for it, too), but doesn’t want to feel guilty about it. So, at the urging of his stoner friend Dean (a shaggy, bearded Ben Affleck), Joel decides to hire a dim-witted gigolo (Dustin Milligan) to seduce his wife and assuage his guilt.
If that seems like a lot of plot for a movie like this… well, it is. Extract has a weird mixture of an overstuffed plot and a relaxed, almost aimless tone. The movie has enough plot to make a crackling farce, but nothing ever attains much of a sense of urgency. This casualness isn’t necessarily a bad thing — the movie manages to deliver a consistent stream of low-key laughs — but despite a steady diet of both silliness and detail-based observational humor, the movie never reaches (or even seems to aspire to) the comedic highs of Office Space.
But if plotting isn’t Judge’s strong suit, where he excels is in the sad, banal details of modern life, whether they be the difficulties of masturbating unimpeded in one’s own home, or characters who drink soda out of two-liter bottles and call Domino’s to deliver more when they run out.
Still, Extract flirts with greatness at times, as in Bateman’s encounter with the angriest pothead ever, or any of the scenes involving David Koechner as Bateman’s annoying neighbor. Koechner’s character is really the epitome of a clueless bore, somebody who doesn’t understand when a conversation is over, even after you’ve said, “I can’t talk,” and closed the door in his face.
One good thing about the movie’s lackadaisical structure is it really allows the cast to give their characters room to breathe. Bateman brings the same wry humor and harried everyman quality to this movie that he did to Arrested Development, and his performance does a lot to endear us to his character, who ends up doing some remarkably stupid and selfish things over the course of the film.
Bateman is backed up by a terrific supporting cast, including people like Beth Grant and J.K. Simmons, who never fail to wrench as much laughter as possible out of any role they’re given. Milligan is also very impressive as Brad the gigolo, who really hopes Bateman will recommend his services to his friends. Kunis brings convincing amorality to the part of a girl who makes her living off the sad truth that men are always willing to believe that hot chicks likes them. Perhaps funniest is Affleck, who can be bland as a leading man but is relaxed and hilarious here, dropping in periodically with great comic riffs on ketamine and the ethics of adultery.
Affleck’s character doesn’t have much to do with the main plot of the film, but most of the best stuff in Extract, like Koechner, is pretty unrelated to the film’s central story. Judge seems to care about the main plot even less than we do, and as in Idiocracy and Office Space he has trouble tying up the story satisfactorily. For most of the movie’s length, Judge’s plot insufficiencies don’t really hurt the film. Only Kunis’ plotline blatantly suffers. It’s not all that clear in the first place how she would make money from someone else suing the plant, and when the movie is done with her she gets elbowed out the door with a perfunctory scene or two. But as the film goes on, when given choices about the direction in which the story will proceed, Judge tends to take the path of least resistance, and eventually the movie just kind of ends without feeling like much of anything happened.
Extract is quite funny, but it could have become more of a fast-paced farce, or maybe more of an Office Space-type examination of unpleasant people doing terrible things to each other. Judge never seems to be striving for much of anything at all. While it has a nice accumulation of observational humor and crushing suburban banality, the result seems like a lot less than the sum of its parts.