Directed by Mike Judge
What Tod Browning was to freaks and Russ Meyer was to tits, Mike Judge is to morons: a passionate connoisseur fascinated and repelled by a natural phenomenon he’s so good — perhaps the best — at representing in all its overawing diversity. But where Beavis & Butt-head’s iconic tag-team of chuckling cretins ridiculed dead-end MTV youth, Office Space’s cubicle drones mocked corporate purgatory, and Idiocracy’s dystopic republic of simps skewered Bush’s gluttonous, self-serving, know-nothing America, Extract, Judge’s latest, employs dolts to justify maintenance of the status quo.
A disappointing development, but hardly a surprising one. The hint of condescension that concluded Idiocracy — in the land of mental midgets, the average Joe is king — is here made explicit. “Regular guy” Jason Bateman plays Joel, owner of a modest flavor extract factory, whose life is beset by the idiocies of his employees and the immoralities of his women. Incompetence leads to the accidental near-castration of would-be floor manager Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), driven to sue Joel by opportunistic scam artist Cindy (Mila Kunis), Joel’s new temp. Meanwhile, his home life unravels when, saddened by his sexless marriage and under the influence of one of the many drugs peddled by unscrupulous bartender friend Dean (Ben Affleck), he enlists a quasi-retarded mimbo (Dustin Milligan) to seduce his wife (Kristen Wiig) and test her fidelity.
The film’s major problem is that its humor leans on “kooky” characters instead of satiric situations, and even then recycles Judge’s best bits (Brent Briscoe’s intrusive, rambling neighbor plays like a less funny, more irritating Lumbergh). Whereas a staff’s joyless “Happy Birthday” in Office Space captured the pathetic disempowerment of an entire mid-level punch-clocking community, Extract’s take on workplace dysfunction amounts to “Everybody’s sort of stupid, aren’t they?”: Mexican laborers are clueless scapegoats, older assembly line workers are childish ninnies, metalhead forklift drivers are go-nowhere dweebs, and overall the working class is an ungrateful bunch that strikes out of greed and can’t even do that right. Such focus on chronic, individual ineptitude makes not for an indictment of a system, but instead a looking-down upon the unwashed plebeians Judge finds innately disgusting as well as endearing, a love/hate relationship he’s until now never expressed with such outright contempt. Judge has hitherto sided with the working stiff, but though the economy may be in the shitter, Joel’s wacky journey toward domestic and business harmony has him reclaim the right to keep those below him where they belong: under the protection of a superior leader who can prevent their buffoonish selves from hacking off each others’ body parts. According to Judge, they should consider themselves lucky.
Opens September 4