That Syrupy Silver Lining

Movie Title: Extract (2009)
Spoilers: No

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The movie (ineloquently named) Extract is about one Joel (Jason Bateman), a company owner and producer of extract (yes, like Adam’s and whatnot). He’s also a distraught husband who, in addition to having some personal struggles to overcome, has some business-related issues to work out.

Built from the ground up, Joel’s company is run by a mob of shiftless and unsatisfied employees. They aren’t well diversified. Some are racist and gossipy. Some of them are quite dumb (and some are dumber than that). But they show up to work, always with their respective personality glitches in tow, happy or not. That means you, the viewer, are in a position to be entertained by watching them—barring the astoundingly apparent need for acting lessons on the parts of some.

We’ve already mentioned Joel, a sexually frustrated man with his beautiful sweatpants-wearing wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) who is unsure about his company’s future. And you have Brian (J.K. Simmons), Joel’s right-hand man, who is so personally disconnected from the employees that he just calls them “dinkus” instead of learning their names.

Joel’s neighbor is Nathan (David Koechner), an “I’m talking and I can’t shut up” neighbor who has no earthly idea that he is a constant irritant. His role in the film lacks relevancy and feels more scripted than it was intended to feel, but the character aspires to add dimension to the lives of Joel and Suzie. Not a success, but it is a small failure.

You have Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), a man with a brain only a little higher functioning than a turnip, a man who wants more than anything to be Floor Manager at the plant. He brings with him the social skills of a hyena. He has a half-brother who drinks lots of Pepsi. Okay, that last comment is evidence that there’s not much else I have to say. Sorry.

Along comes Cindy (Mila Kunis), a mouthwatering dame who, above all things, is “looking out for number one” to the extent that she snatches up what belongs to “number two.” Along for the ride is Dean (Ben Affleck), a pill-head and one-man bar support system. He has enough drugs to qualify as a pharmacy…and he can hook you up! If he were real, his picture would be viewable in the Guinness Book of World Records under the category “Worst Advice Giver of All Time.”

Affleck is frightfully convincing as a consoling long-time friend of Joel’s who always steps up to the plate to help out his buddy. The problem is that he ruins everything he touches. Hear his wisdom: “You should hang out with my boy Willie. He’s a great guy! He’s the one who gave me that horse tranquilizer.” Top that, King Solomon! Hah!

In Extract, director Mike Judge (creator of Office Space, 1999, and the hilarious Idiocracy, 2006) has fired up his engines again. Like before, he’s done a damn fine job. His new film carries the same scent of his previous works, with just a few less sparks flying. Dryness and sarcasm, combined with respectable writing, makes Extract funny and mesmeric. Though not hysterical, we have before us an amusing and appealing satire dealing largely with blue-collar life.

The film’s lack of focus can be classed as a plus or a minus, as no one group or class is consistently parodied. Every bunch, in turn, has their ups and downs. The men will fall victim to hot women, and the women will do the same with hot guys who come to clean their pools. The “working class stiffs” may have it harder than those who stare at them from an air-conditioned office window, but if they want better, they’ve got to do better by showing that they are smarter (that’s a real obstacle for this crowd)…and they need to quit bitching about their circumstances.

We’ve all got something to bitch about—that means none of us can complain about anything! Blue-collar or white-collar, everyone’s life sucks at some point and everyone is stupid at some point. Don’t hate yourself or others. Just move on. That message I got and can respect. Wait for the silver lining. It shows up even where cooking stuff is made.

(JH)

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Grade: B+ (3 ½ stars) Recommended!
Rated: R
Director: Mike Judge
Summary: Joel, the owner of an Extract plant, tries to contend with a myriad of personal and professional problems and must safeguard his business from a lawsuit.
Starring: Jason Bateman “Joel,” Mila Kunis “Cindy,” Kristen Wiig “Suzie,” Ben Affleck “Dean,” J.K. Simmons “Brian,” Clifton Collins Jr. “Step,” Dustin Milligan “Brad”
Genre: Comedy

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