When I first saw the headline that Ben Affleck had just signed onto Mike Judge’s new movie Extract, I got a little worried. Sure, there are other bigger and more important things to worry about in life, but I grouped it in with the rest of the things that trouble me – like the possibility of seeing a ghost in my basement or falling asleep while driving (or putting). It’s not that I dislike Affleck. I think he can be great. Sometimes. (Rarely.) It’s just that I got nervous that Jason Bateman, the guy who was supposed to be starring in Judge’s latest comedic venture, had been chucked to the wayside. Bateman’s casting is consistent with the kind of laid back funny folks that Judge likes to see topline his flicks. Well, all my hand-wringing was for naught. Affleck is in talks to join the movie as either (depending on the source you read) the best pal of Bateman’s character or an ambulance-chasing lawyer. Or both?
A few years ago, you really couldn’t imagine Affleck taking a secondary role in anything. He was busy fronting big budget misfires like Gigli and Daredevil. And Paycheck. Wow. 2003 was a rough seas kind of year for him. But after a constant smackdown in the press and a string of box office nightmares, the actor pulled back and reassessed. And it was a smart decision. The Affleck that returned from that sabbatical (or from a body-snatching) was and is more interesting. Not only did he helm last year’s very, very good Gone Baby Gone, but he seems to be picking more interesting projects to perform in. Look for him later this year in the remake of the UK’s excellent mini-series State of Play. He’s got the most challenging role in that movie, and he’ll be sharing drinks and butting heads with none other than Russell Crowe. A complex role + acting opposite a terrific actor = the toughest assignment of Affleck’s career. But at least he’s taking risks, right?
Signing on for a role in Extract returns Affleck to the ticklish embrace of the comedy world. And the actor has always been better at yucking it up than pressing the right drama combo on his inner Xbox controller. The movie, which sounds a little like the Coen Brothers soon to be shot A Serious Man, is about a flower extract factory owner(!) who has to deal with an assortment of troubles at the office and at home. For example, his wife (played by the very funny Kristen Wiig) is cheating on him with a gigolo. The incredibly pretty (and pretty funny) Mila Kunis and the always welcome Clifton Collins, Jr. will also appear in the movie.
The movie sounds promising. Heck, I think anything Mike Judge does is promising. The guy is brilliant, and it’s great that he’s back on track so soon after what happened to the simply wonderful Idiocracy. It would just be nice to see this movie get to theaters without any release hiccups, you know? I wonder if he and Terry Gilliam ever traded horror stories over beers. Extract is set to arrive (cross your rabbit feet and rub your fingers) sometime next year.