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With movie comedies increasingly dominated by loser men-children, scatological stunts and more F-bombs than shore leave, you've got to appreciate the comparatively gentle humor of Mike Judge. The writer/director's latest offering, "Extract,"  doesn't pummel viewers for laughs, eliciting guffaws "? well, smiles, at any rate "? from character-driven situations.

If only it were funnier.

Don't get me wrong. "Extract" has its funny moments. Judge is adept at mining humanity's propensity idiocy, but his satirical jabs work best in the periphery of his story line. They might not be quite enough to sustain a feature-length film, but they reveal "Extract" at its most inspired.

Joel (Jason Bateman) owns a small company that produces flavoring extract. By all rights, he should be reveling in his good fortune. But Joel is not happy. His workers run the spectrum from cranky to inept. His home life is just as frustrating.

Then Joel notices when a beautiful new worker, Cindy (Mila Kunis), expresses interest in how he started his company. Joel is smitten with her, but knows that infidelity would weigh heavily on his conscience. Satirizing dumbness comes easily for Judge; plausible motives and behaviors, however, prove more difficult.

"Extract" has some memorable turns. Bateman, Ben Affleck and Dustin Milligan are all winning in their roles, but you might remember most are the small bits that fill the margins of this workplace comedy: Matt Schulze as a gung-ho pot dealer, Gene Simmons as a sleazy lawyer and David Koechner as Joel's


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