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
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