For a movie about flavored extract, Extract sure is bland.
For the most part, Joel lives a pretty mediocre life. He lives comfortably in his nice house with a nice car in the driveway, but its hard to be content with this with an annoyingly outspoken neighbor and a wife that uses sweat pants as if to say “you’re not getting any tonight.” What’s more is that his only escape from it all is the extract plant he built and now owns, but now it too is becoming more trouble than it’s worth for Joel. Seeing his escape thanks to an offer from General Mills to take the company off his hands, he finally sees a way to put his life back together. Too bad the factory has other plans for him. After a freak accident at work, Joel must now find other ways to bring about a happy return to normalcy before he loses his mind.
The problem with this attempt at finding the humor in mediocrity is that the comedy of the film rarely moves out of the realm of mediocrity as well. Joel is a character that has been put on screen many times before: he is unhappy with his job, he doesn’t trust the fidelity of his wife, and he drinks to forget the problems of his life. Not only is this character familiar, but it is a familiar role to see Jason Bateman in. He plays it well enough, but change the title of this movie and he could be portraying half of the characters he has played throughout his career.
From time to time Joel finds himself in a situation that proves to be hilarious, thanks in large part to the characters around him. Ben Affleck’s bar tender is not the most inspired, but his treatment of drugs and advice to Joel often proves to be the catalyst to these moments, such as bringing about Joel’s employment of a promiscuous pool boy to taking bong hits with a man who has a very explosive personality. Unfortunately most other characters prove to be just as annoying for the audience as they are to Joel thanks to their obstinate attitudes, making the jokes that actually hit as they should few and far between. Even the comedic actors who have proven themselves time and time again fall flat because their roles lack any real substance, such as J.K. Simmons, David Koechner and Mila Kunis. Because of this, for at least the first 25 minutes the most amusing thing about Extract is Joel’s wife’s defensive sweatpants tactics. From then on, even when it becomes clear that Suzie may not be the best wife, it is hard not to side with her because Joel becomes less and less of the “perfect” husband. Then again, this is helped in large part by Kristen Wiig, who is the bright spot in this film, proving that her more subtle comedic roles (such as in Knocked Up) are just as hilarious and effective as her over the top characters on Saturday Night Live.
In the end Extract is as average as Joel’s life, easily being outshone overall by the simplest things. It’s not bad, but it isn’t inspired. It just is.
Final Grade: C