FILM REVIEW: Extract (Cert 15)

THE writer and director of Extract, Mike Judge, is the creator of three things that most people like at least one of: nineties off-the-cuff and baffling Beavis & Butthead, late nineties cult comedy Office Space and recently departed animated sitcom King o

THE writer and director of Extract, Mike Judge, is the creator of three things that most people like at least one of: nineties off-the-cuff and baffling Beavis & Butthead, late nineties cult comedy Office Space and recently departed animated sitcom King of the Hill.

Each requires a rather specific taste but all are regarded as genius in various circles.

The one I'm the biggest fan of is Office Space, a pre-cursor to the now classic British comedy The Office (with the awkward humour and familiar set-up). It's not a big personal favourite of mine but I remember really enjoying it.

I was a little too young to appreciate Beavis & Butthead, although the feature length film is hilarious ("I am the great cornholio! I need TP for my bunghole!" - classic).


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And due to really dodgy British television planning it's a rarity to see both Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill on at all so I've been unlucky to not know much about the animated side of Mike Judge.

But Extract returns to the non-animated side, bringing together a fairly strong cast from the likes of Arrested Development (Jason Bateman), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Mila Kunis), Oz (JK Simmons) and of course that guy from such classics as Pearl Harbour, Daredevil and Gigli (Ben Affleck).

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The trailer suggests it's a return to the workplace awkward comedy of Office Space, which is always something to look forward to, and with nearly ten years since a feature film under his belt it's all down to whether the writer / director has still

got it in him to tickle the senses with those sight gags, clever one liners and finding humour in those everyday work things that would usually pass by unnoticed.

THOUGHTS AFTERWARDS

Ever since Arrested Development, probably my favourite US comedy ever, ended I've been surprisingly unimpressed by star Jason Bateman's career since.

From appearances in Juno (with fellow AD star Michael Cera) and recent comedy bores such as Holiday Retreat, he has stuck to that every-man role he mastered with character Michael Bluth but in slightly more unlikeable ways.

Finally a director has taken Jason Bateman and given him a role that isn't a complete rehash.

And for that he is a proper leading man once more, and better and more likeable than Michael Bluth.

Bateman's character, Joel Reynolds, is properly taken on a rollercoaster of a ride.

As the boss of a food factory, as mundane as it sounds, he is settling in to his life of mediocrity - a workforce that is childish, a neighbour who is annoying in his attempts to connect with him and a wife who won't 'put out' if he arrives home after a set time.

In a potential anti-drugs message (but not really) his weakness is highlighted by best friend Dean (played ruggedly by Good Will Hunting star Ben Affleck), who confirms that Joel has a crush on a new employee. He suggests, to rid the guilt of cheating on his wife, he gets her to cheat on him first. Dean happens to know a male gigolo (who doesn't?), who can provide such a service (at a cost of course), and after a bout of drugs (what was supposed to be a pain killer turns out to be horse tranquiliser) he agrees.

The next morning, after a glass of water and an aspirin, he suddenly remembers that fateful decision and panics. He tries and fails to contact the teenage gigolo - he'd already arrived at his house, he'd already done the deed...

From there on in it plays out like a funnier Coen Brothers film, with a slew of genuinely funny one liners and situations that are delivered so well and play out perfectly.

The best duo, as this really is a movie with a large collection of character relationships, is between Joel and Brad (the male gigolo, played by a Dustin Milligan - a current star in the modern remake of 90210). Joel is obviously angry at Brad but at the same time he paid him to do it, at the same time too he feels sorry for him as he is a moron... the confusion is done so well, the crooked dynamic they are forced to face is a comical character study that was instantly watchable.

Is it 'laugh out loud' funny as most cinema comedies often promise? Yes and no.

It certainly has it's moments, quite a few, and I laughed just as much at this than Office Space (but I'll re-iterate, I'm not one of those die hard fans of Judge's back catalogue).

But Mike Judge's comedy style isn't the in-your-face laughs that many cinematic outings have (which may be why his main body of work is on television).

It plods along, gives plenty of meat to the characters, and delivers a worthwhile comedy without forsaking any of the script hurdles that many lesser screenplay writers would fall for.

Bateman aside, everyone does a good job. Special mentions have to go to Mila Kunis, who didn't really have to do much but she once again radiates on screen, and Ben Affleck, who plays the bad best friend really well. No-one particularly stands out, as this is Jason Bateman's story ultimately, but that's of no detriment to anyone involved.

I found Extract captivating for a comedy and I think it's a little gem. It doesn't take any easy routes to capture a particular crowd (as some recently offerings do, putting in certain types of music or attracting certain cast members - Will Ferrell, Seth Rogan etc). This is a snapshot of real-life, albeit in a rather exaggerated situation, and is a genuinely captivating and honest little yarn.

Its lack of clear "gags" may be off putting for some, but for those looking for a quaint, easy man-overcoming-comical-odds tale then look no further.

Fans of the more subtle comedies should book their tickets now in fact; followers of Ricky Gervais, Larry David, all should take notice.

This won't push your brain and isn't a challenge but crucially it won't insult your intelligent either - a feat that so many genuine comedies do now-a-days (not counting those dire indie drama/comedies, that disguise all script flaws in rubbish guitar music).

Extract allows you to make the connections yourself to find laughs, to search for the intentional quirks of each character and to relate to the home or work situations (I'm sure I missed many jokes in fact, but the power hungry work folk assuming they know more than the bosses and the very awkward neighbour are all things I've witnessed and laughed at their accuracy).

Extract has come from nowhere and, after a drama filled couple of months with the Oscar contenders, it's nice to have a solid, charming and funny movie sneak out.

It's just in time for the upcoming bank holiday too and is the perfect cure for those Easter Bunny Blues.

TIM LINCE

4/5 STARS

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