After his considerable small screen success with Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, it was clear that Mike Judge’s brand of caustic humour would, one day, enable him to make a great big-screen comedy. Judge’s fans believe he’s already made one in the form of his enjoyable 1999 cult hit Office Space, but his unfocused 2006 follow-up Idiocracy illustrated that he deals in acerbically observed characters, not involving storylines.
Judge’s latest championing of the little man is Extract, which stars Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman as Joel Reynolds, the founder and proprietor of an artificial flavouring factory. Despite a lucrative takeover bid in the pipeline, Joel is persuaded by his druggie bartender Dean (Ben Affleck) to hire a gigolo to seduce Joel’s wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig), therefore alleviating Joel’s guilt about potentially cheating on her with sexy employee Cindy (Mila Kunis), who is not what she seems.
The convoluted plotting might make Extract sound like a sex comedy, but this is actually a satire of middle management, with all the characters reflecting the casually venal nature of society. Unfortunately, they also suffer from the same alienating selfishness that’s become Judge’s trademark; Judge has the imagination to skewer several layers of society, from the humble pool boy to the vain factory superintendent, but doesn’t do enough to make us care about them. Extract’s desire to say something meaningful and unsentimental about modern life makes it a cut above most US comedies, but lacks the laughs required to balance out Judge’s trenchant social commentary.
General release from Fri 26 Mar.