Extract is so bad its rottenness becomes a source of fascination, which is a good thing, because there’s nothing else to sustain your interest while the 89 minute dud drags by. It’s all Mike Judge’s fault, that much is clear. He wrote and directed it as if he’d forgotten what he does for a living. Is he suffering from amnesia? Narcolepsy? Ketamine addiction? The malaise that afflicts so many Hollywood types with so much success and so few brains they wind up in the hospital suffering from “exhaustion”?
How to account for the sheer lassitude of this film, the lack of focus at every level? There are even a couple of shots that I’d swear are out of focus, but the whole movie is so drab and stilted it hardly matters. There’s a trite laugh-free script, terrible amateurish shot set-ups, ponderous pacing, and a wholesale waste of comic acting talent. Jason Bateman does his best Jason Batemanisms to no avail as Joel, a factory owner stymied by the aggravations of his life, including his sex-withholding wife (Kristen Wiig), his logorrheic next-door neighbor (David Koetchner), his drug-dispensing bartender friend (Ben Affleck), and his maddeningly underachieving employees.
Even J.K. Simmons has trouble making an impression—J.K. Simmons!—because he’s basically got nothing to do but come to the doorway of Joel’s office and say, “That offer to buy us out is still on the table, as long as nothing bad happens in the factory today.” Then a chain reaction of bad things happen in the factory. Then you wonder why you didn’t go see Inglorious Basterds again.
On the other hand, dedicated Mike Judge fans might love it. They love King of the Hill, don’t they?
Some critics are mentioning that there’s a “daring twist” in this film. (Okay, it’s those two pasty white guys on At the Movies who are engaged in a kind of Duel of the Bores, trying to out-bland each other with duller opinions than anyone has ever achieved before.) The “twist” is that whereas Office Space was about alienated cubicle workers, Extract sympathizes with the boss who drives a beamer and lives in a big McMansion. He’s a nice boss running an old-fashioned factory producing a superior extract he himself invented as a chemistry student. (Yuh-huh.) He works so hard he can never get home before eight p.m., which is when his wife ties her sweatpants and becomes sexually unavailable, and that’s where the whole tiresomely zany plot kicks off involving a dimwitted pool boy (Dustin Milligan) hired to service the wife and a sexy grifter (Mila Kunis) who takes a temp job at the factory and an aggressive TV-lawyer (Gene Simmons) and I don’t know what the hell else, it doesn’t matter.
Everything about Extract is crap, starting with the title, and including the poster image built around the title. This is telling, because Judge famously blamed the initial box-office failure of his cult-fave comedy Office Space on the lame poster and marketing campaign. Presumably now Judge has a lot of say about the marketing of his movies. Let’s take a look at these two posters, shall we?
I’m thinking the Extract poster makes the Office Space poster looks like a monument to PR competence. There are many dull jokes in Extract about how nobody cares about extract, i.e. food flavorings, and then they go and prove it by naming the movie Extract, and showing a picture of extract, and setting walnuts next to the bottle of extract so people can wonder, “Is it walnut extract?”
Then you register that one walnut is cracked and empty, so you get to ponder some more: “Is this some kinda double entendre type thing about ‘nuts,’ as in craziness, or nuts in a testicular sense? Yeah, isn’t that some part of the plot, an industrial accident involving a worker at the extract factory who loses one testicle, and in the preview there’s the theme going about the modern male castrated by his harpy wife and ghastly late-capitalism career…”
None of which is really punched across with a photo of an extract bottle plus one-and-a-half walnuts. But the poster does convey the vague, muddled, fatheaded tone of the film, which makes you wonder if this Mike Judge could possibly be the same astute guy who did Beavis and Butt-head and the really excellent chunks of Office Space. Are there two Mike Judges, twins, one smart, one dumb as a bag of hammers? Or maybe two halves of Mike Judge’s brain at war with each other, sort of like in Adaptation, and the stupid half is steadily taking over?
Maybe Judge’s last film Idiocracy is an autobiographical work, a poignant, prophetic allegory about his loss of brain function over time. If so, Extract makes a lot of sense.
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