Radio 09.11.09
            This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening in the area this week:
            Comedy is really difficult to get right.  It relies on hyperbole, yet is easily overblown.  It lampoons easily, but must be careful not to invoke pity, which is decidedly unfunny.  It depends on the unexpected, and yet at its best is exhaustively rehearsed, expertly orchestrated, and carefully manipulated.  It tries to stay deadpan, even while it attempts to elicit a reaction.  And, most of all, it cannot be created by being overanalyzed.  It’s like the jurist’s famous definition of pornography, which was “I know it when I see it.”  Presumably, all prurience leading up to that point is merely the warm-up act.
            “Extract” is funny.  It’s difficult to say why.  The plot isn’t particularly amusing:  thirty-something guy named Joel (Jason Bateman, who looks ironic just standing there) lives in the suburbs with his frigid wife Suzie (Kristin Wiig).  Joel tells his good friend, the bartender Dean (Ben Affleck with shoulder-length hair and a beard) that he knows Kristin’s affections are turned off whenever she puts on her sweat pants.  Dean, trying to be helpful, first recommends recreational drugs (surely an offense to some viewers), then having an affair (surely an offense to just about everyone), then paying his friend Brad (Dustin Milligan) to try to seduce Suzie so Joel could feel good about romancing the new hottie at the plant.  The airhead Brad succeeds easily, which surprises, and then offends, our almost-everyman Joel. 
            Meanwhile, the new “hottie,” Cindy (Mila Kunis), turns out to be conscienceless herself.  She steals from co-workers, and then shamelessly tries to hook up with a simpleton who was injured on the job, so she might attach herself to some of that settlement money.  Joel, not being quite as dumb as everybody around him, senses that Cindy is bad news, and also decides to “do the right thing” by the (simpleton) people at his extract plant.
            Yes, part of most successful comedy is making fun of others.  But we want to root for Joel because his predicaments are understandable, and he doesn’t seem to be such a bad guy, if he thinks about things long enough.  Throw in a few cameo spoofs about the pesky neighbor who won’t go away, and the country boys in their trailer watching the fishing show on television, and you have the ingredients for comedy.  But it’s the veteran comedic cast that really makes this one irreverently funny.   Just prepare to be offended.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93-5 KICK-FM