Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 9:02 pm | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘Extract’

Writer and director Mike Judge stays true to his humor with this film

1 Star — Demeaning

The title of the film Extract is appropriate on all levels. Written and directed by Mike Judge, he has extracted from this story virtually all morality, wisdom, spiritual values, character development and empathy. The end product is a “comedy” that is far more disturbing than humorous and an experience that is more depressing than entertaining. We don’t recommend the film for people of any age, and note that it deserves its R rating.

As the creator of the “Beavis and Butt-head” and “King of the Hill” television shows, it’s obvious that this Ecuadorian native who grew up in Albuquerque likes more base forms of humor. But when the antics move from animation to real people, he fails to take the opportunity to add insight or depth to the story, so this film doesn’t rise above a cartoon-like, two-dimensional development of both characters and storyline.

The central character is Joel (Jason Bateman). He is a young man who put his graduate degree in chemistry to practical use and developed a successful line of food extracts that “keep their flavor even when cooked.”

Although his hard work has created a flourishing company, it has caused difficulty in his marriage. Having partnered with Joel at first by developing the business logos and marketing materials, his wife, Suzie (Kristen Wiig), now resents his long work hours and lack of passion. That causes her to shut down their marital relations, creating a central theme in the film when Joel complains to his bartender.

The bartender, Dean (Ben Affleck), has no lack of confidence as he counsels Joel, but his counsel lacks wisdom, empathy and morality.

When Cindy (Mila Kunis) starts working as a temp for Joel’s company and manipulates him for her own reasons, Dean’s counsel to Joel is to hire a gigolo to seduce Suzie to allow Joel to commit adultery without guilt. The ill-devised plan is meant to be funny. It’s not.

The story follows the classic comic style in which a tremendous problem is created because of stupid decisions but everything works out in the end. The problem is that we never develop respect for Joel or Suzie, or care about anyone else in the film. The lack of characters with whom we can identify causes us to simply want to get away from them when the credits roll. However, there is a final comedic justice that occurs during the credits.

When we extract morality and wisdom from life, we are left with anything but comedy. We may nervously laugh at some of the circumstances that bad decisions produce, but the harm done is so obvious that we can’t relax and enjoy the tale.

Discussion:

» When Cindy uses her sexuality to manipulate people, she harms those she so uses. Have you ever been involved with such a person? What was the impact of the person passing through your life?

» Do you agree that the characters in the film were cartoonish? Why or why not?

» Did you find the resolution of the film satisfying? Why or why not?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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