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Sat August 22, 2009
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time," "Cinema Classics," and "On the Marquee"
"OK, so I'm a bit of a character." Dean (Ben Affleck)
Just mention King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead, or Office Space from creator Mike Judge and you'll get reactions of awe for his "characters"-- their iconoclastic, offbeat humor. The setup of Extract is eccentric enough to fit those social comedies: an artificial flavoring factory filled with oddball assembly-line workers and an accident where one of them loses a testicle.
But writer/director Judge can't fully match the promise of the premise as he tailors only a few scenes to his brash humor: for example, three men on a bong is smart on several levels, especially the timing and Jason Bateman's laid-back factory-owner Joel, who doesn't fit the smoking scene but whose droll responses to Ben Affleck's New -Age bartender are quite funny.
Bateman's everyman persona holds the cast and story together as well as he can in spite of the many slow scenes and repetitious comedic bits such as the nerdy neighbor (David Koechner), who appears too many times in an annoying bit about The Rotary Club, and the testicle motif.
Underneath the shallow humor lies a commentary worth attention?the plight of the factory workers waiting for a company to be sold with few places for them to go. Seen from management's point of view, they are racist slackers who can compromise their own well-being by damaging production at will. With the humorous daily shenanigans of those line workers halting production for various petty jealousies and intrigues, Extract is not a bad commentary on the vicissitudes of factory life for management and workers.
Joel's vacant sex life--his wife, Suzie (Kirsten Wiig) is not responsive-- heightens the social commentary concerning the trade offs of the American dream that needs tending 24/7. But I stretch to make something out of the weak end of summer film fare. Extract is simply an extract of the larger comedic genre which will have to wait for fall to be adequately seasoned.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, Cinema Classics, and On the Marquee, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com