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movies / September 6, 2009


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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Add your own

  • 1. Tyrone Slothrop  |  September 6th, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Mike Judge is overrated, long live disco totalitarianism.

  • 2. rick  |  September 6th, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    All the Extract posters I’ve seen have the pseudo-“stars,” just their boring faces, inexplicably. It looks like marketing folk are spooked by the uncertainty of box office, much like everyone who used to fund interesting art films.

    The people-posters are all even boringer than the main one, except for the lovely, Ukrainian Mila Kunis. Inglourious Basterds had a similar star-centric marketing. Nobody knows what makes people go see movies, but Extract certainly exemplifies failing without even trying.

  • 3. chill  |  September 6th, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Eh, every director has at LEAST one or two bad movies in them…

  • 4. fodder  |  September 7th, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Most directors only have one or two GOOD movies in them.

  • 5. Rosa  |  September 7th, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I knew it was bad if Judge had to dig out Beavis and Butthead to try and sell it, as much as I miss them. The clip in the preview makes no sense at all, and Kunis is astonishingly awkward. Well, Office Space and B&B are more than most directors manage to do over a career. Guess I’ll go dig out my Beavis and Butthead Xmas special now.

  • 6. Mads Mikkelsen  |  September 7th, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Idiocracy was a brilliant and scathing attack on stupid people and the average people who tolerate their stupidity. It was an elegy for elitism as great as Inglourious Basterds.

  • 7. wengler  |  September 7th, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    That sucks, I was hoping for a good comedy despite the inclusion of Ben Affleck.

  • 8. Mark  |  September 8th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    I’m a huge fan of Office Space, but I couldn’t quite ‘get’ Extract, either. There are maybe 2 or 3 legit laughs, but it’s pretty damn dull and pointless overall. Kunis is the best part just because she’s the only character who acts like a normal human being and because of what she looks like while doing so.

  • 9. Michael  |  September 9th, 2009 at 1:52 am

    I wasted $7.50 to go see this movie, and it was one of the worst movies ever made! And I love Mila Kunis. She stole the film in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, but was totally wasted in this movie, while giving the best performance of anyone in ‘EXTRACT’. I wanted to extract my ass from my seat in the middle of the movie……. but my wife wouldn’t let me. The last movie I hated as much as this one was John Travolta’s piece of crap…. ‘Battlefield Earth’ perhaps one of the worst movies in the history of the human race.

  • 10. Frank McG  |  September 16th, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Idiocracy was an unfunny movie loved by stupid people who want to believe that they’re the exception. I’m going to have to go with Mike Judge suffering from amnesia. Otherwise he’d realize that he already made the exact same point infinitely better with Beavis & Butthead.

    Oh yeah, eugenicist Nazis loved Idiocracy too.

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