Jason Bateman, he of child actor stardom in Little House on the Prairie, became newly hip and famous as the all-important voice of reason amid the gaggle of absurd characters in Arrested Development, the greatest television comedy in the past decade (at least so says me and a sizable cult following). In a case of not-unhappy typecasting, Bateman again lands squarely in a role about finding the center in seismic emotional turbulence, in writer/director Mike Judge’s wondrously quirky, light-black comedy, Extract.
Here, Bateman is at his finest as a humble and semi-hapless extract factory owner, related to the woes of Fargo‘s William H. Macy, minus bloody fates worthy of wood chippers. Our man is contending with touches of midlife crisis, ennui, and industrial ruin (matters cleverly interlaced), compounded by the presence of a beautiful, comely, and cunning siren (Mila Kunis), a male gigolo, and a testicular mishap, to name a few key features.
Hollywood comedies too often come in predictable packages, even when it comes to projects from planet quirky. Extract has a special, unique sense of dryness and unhurried pacing, triggering laughs of a different, subtler color. We expect SNL great Kristen Wiig to “wig out” in some signature way, but she plays it-key word-“almost” straight. Even Ben Affleck, infamous for his bad acting, shines in the role of a Jesus-looking slacker bartender friend and bringer-on of potential personal doom for Bateman. It’s all in good, coolly witty, left-of-center fun.