Friday, September 04, 2009

Mike Judge's Jack Lemmon Movie

Ben Affleck plays Ernie Kovacs to Jason Bateman's Jack Lemmon in Mike Judge's retro "Extract"

Mike Judge's third film, "Extract," is something of a willful departure from his previous comedy triumphs - 1999's "Office Space," a comic tonic for anyone who despises workplace authority (count me in), and 2006's "Idiocracy," an aggressively subversive gift for those of us made impatient with the stupidity that's encouraged and rewarded by the people who run the country (I'm in again). I like the way Judge thinks.

"Extract" is no less angry but its relatively sunny retro quality is likely to throw off people, even those who are paid to be observant and astute - yes, the critics.

Watching star Jason Bateman as the befuddled owner of an flavor extract plant, trying to juggle disgruntled workers, a disinterested wife, a tempting new employee, the promising sale of his company and a potential lawsuit, I was transported easily back to the 1960s when Jack Lemmon would inarguably have been its star.

"Extract" is a sex comedy, circa 1964 (not 2009), a film that, one day, will make a nifty double-bill with Lemmon's "Good Neighbor Sam," if some resourceful rep house programmer gets the idea.

Instead of Dorothy Provine and Romy Schneider as the put-upon hero's wife and sex fantasy, respectively, we get Kristen Wiig and Mila Kunis driving Bateman to comic distraction in different ways. David Koechner steals scenes as the neighbor from suburban hell (Robert Q. Lewis had the role in "Sam"), and Ben Affleck is something of a scruffy revelation, playing Ernie Kovacs to Bateman's Lemmon, always ready to offer unsolicited, untrustworthy advice. Affleck is a welcome presence whenever he's on screen - when he's off, you miss him - and his scenes with Bateman have the natural ping-pong rhythm of buddies bonding.

Such modern supporting stalwarts as J.K. Simmons, Beth Grant and Clifton Collins, Jr. add to the pleasing ensemble.

"Extract" probably won't win Judge any new fans - and may disappoint the ones he already has - but it's an accomplished, soothing reminder of a time when sex comedies were ... innocent.

Lemmon as good neighbor Sam


Brian said...

Hey, I agree! I hadn't thought about it when I saw "Extract," but "transport" is the right word. It is definitely a throwback to Lemmon's sex comedies of the '60s. Bateman even kinda looks like the young Lemmon and he has Lemmon’s antic physical manuevering down pat. Lemmon specialized in frustration, angst and unfulfilled desire and all those things come through in "Extract"

B. Robbins said...

Both Lemmon and Bateman have that everyman quality, although I think Bateman is more low-keyed. So I disagree with Brian's use of the word "antic." I think what the two actors also have in common is an ability to play all gradations of the everyman achetype. Lemmon had Billy Wilder to show him the way and maybe Judge will do that for Bateman. I'd like to see them make more films together.

Alex said...

Bateman has been especially terrific of late - "Juno," "The Ex," "State of Play," "The Promotion" and smaller roles in "The Break Up" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." And he isn't bad at all in his first major role - "Teen Wolf, Too"! I could easily see him stepping into some of Lemmon's signature roles, particularly "The Apartment" and "Mister Roberts." It looks as if Judge had a good time directing him as a good-natured shlub in "Extract" who somehow entrances people, getting loyalty (and the best) out of them. Very Lemmonesque.

Dan Buskirk said...

I wish I could see the film you're imagining, oh what Billy Wilder could have done with this material!

But Judge doesn't have the steady hand with tone that Wilder did (who does?) and Jason Bateman is no Jack Lemmon (something about Bateman always comes off as smug to me).

And something about the set up just seems wrong to me. Neither Bateman's philandering nor his wife's seduction by the gigolo is given the proper justification. A sixties sex comedy would likely dangle the sex without having them give in; it seemed to alienating to have both the characters indulge in their fantasies without guilt.

I also went on at length on a piece at (excuse the self-promotion) about it being less funny to have a boss laughing mean-spiritedly at his workers than vice-versa. I'll accept the charge that this is just the old Lefty in me.

I did laugh at Owen Gleiberman's review in Entertainment Weekly, saying the film "plays like Kevin Smith remaking a bad George Segal comedy from 1978". I really enjoyed Judge's first two films but EXTRACT's script fell far short for me. I think it might be the hardest task for a director to attempt, to consistently craft quality comedies.

joe baltake said...

Hey, Dan-

Amazingly I agree with some of your reservations, particularly about how condescending the Bateman character is to his workers. That definitely isn't something you'd find in a Lemmon film. Also, Lemmon was never smug but, frankly, I have never found Bateman very smug either. But that's me. Maybe it's just a matter of perception. One man's smile is another man's smirk.

No, Judge is no Billy Wilder, but "Sam" was directed by David Swift - although that doesn't seem like a good comparison either.

I, too, was amused by Gleiberman's misguided reference to a bad Segal comedy from the '70s. He's not only a full decade off, but I also think that Segal's brand of urban angst was hardly a template for Judge's film.

Read you often on So feel free to plug away!

jbryant said...

I hope to see this before it gets away. Like Judge's other live action films, this one looks destined for poor returns and a short run, followed by cult devotion.

Bateman was also excellent in HANCOCK, in another role that might have been an interesting fit for Lemmon.

Anna O. said...

I love the way Mike Judge's mind works. This wasn't as good as Office Space or Idiocracy but still entertaining and insightful. It was a (refreshing) surprise having the Kristin Wiig character act on her impulses; I was sure it was going to be a big misunderstanding, so that was quite a twist. Loved the awful neighbor.

Sylko said...

Idiocracy depressed me (because it really seems like that's what our world is becoming). It was a little too accurate.

stream movies said...

A good movie, but it's on the margins of the mainstream...i hope that Judge future will be more in-stream of the mainstream, what about another B&B movie? :)

The Kid In The Front Row said...

I completely forgot about this film.. need to see it..