½*/**** Image B- Sound B Extras D+
starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck
written and directed by Mike Judge
by Ian Pugh It's fitting that Mike Judge's latest film, a pale imitation of a past success that endeavours to capture its essence with a bare minimum of the same charm and profundity, should be titled Extract. Perhaps it's not entirely fair to say that Judge's Office Space achieved cult status for its portrayal of nine-to-five banality even though it's actually about a wayward asshole who used that banality as an excuse to become a lazy, belligerent thief. Nevertheless, with Extract, Judge essentially confirms he thinks you liked Office Space for its company setting--and now, ten years later, he responds in kind. Work is hell in Judge's world, and hell is other people. Although Judge is at his best when he's telling you what you don't want to hear--that teenagers are capable of some pretty vile things, that the presence of a work ethic might override your distaste for the work itself, that anti-intellectualism is going to be the death of American culture--at the precise moment you don't want to hear it, in Extract he says nothing provocative beyond the occasional attempt at sucker-punching the viewer with politically-incorrect comedy that stopped being subversive around a decade ago. (Coincidence?) It's impossible to say where the shock or amusement is supposed to come from at the sight of Ben Affleck (another remnant of the P.C. '90s and its reactionary counterculture), gussied up to look like Arlo Guthrie as he curses, deals drugs, and smokes out of ridiculous bongs.
Dullard Joel (dullard Jason Bateman) runs an extract plant. He's caught in a loveless marriage to the equally-dull Suzie (Kristen Wiig); an infatuation with the newest temp (Mila Kunis), secretly a con artist; and a dire lawsuit from former employee Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), who lost a testicle on the production floor. But the aptly-named Judge only really seems concerned with affirming his superiority through another milquetoast audience-surrogate (Bateman follows in the footsteps of Ron Livingston and Luke Wilson) surrounded by racist dopes and well-meaning rubes from all walks of life, each of them itching to make our exasperated hero tear his hair out with their oblivious stupidity. Extract's commitment to this concept eventually interferes with the progression of the plot: Under the accidental influence of ketamine, Joel hires a dimbulb gigolo (Dustin Milligan) to facilitate an affair with his wife--and practically every relevant scene is devoted to demonstrating that this kid is a fucking dumbass. The worst of these caricatures, however, is Joel's excessively chatty next-door neighbour (David Koechner, doing what he can with the role), recognizable as Extract's intrusive Bill Lumbergh substitute. He always interjects at precisely the wrong moment, he's meant to represent someone we all know, and his inevitable comeuppance is to be met with raucous laughter and masturbatory gratification. The whole damned thing is a cinematic turkey shoot.
The picture's targets are so direct and full of irrational rage (again, applied without ever throwing the burden of examination back on the protagonist) that you start to wonder if Judge's last film, Idiocracy, really was the rallying cry for intellectualism it appeared to be, or if it was the snivelling of a man who sees the working class as a band of noble savages. Perhaps they are merely ignoble--it apparently depends on Judge's mood. Worse, the humour here is dry and obvious enough that you could probably plug most of the jokes into an episode of the auteur's own "King of the Hill"--no coincidence that the film feels like a half-hour sitcom bloated to feature-length. Given how thoroughly Judge has established himself as a misanthrope, maybe Extract's laziness and palpable contempt are another middle finger from an artist whose work has often been subject to rampant misinterpretation, though when you get right down to it, any lengthy discourse about Extract is actively overthinking a movie that can be distilled into three brief statements: it isn't funny; it struggles too much to say that tedious surroundings mold tedious people; and it won't steal Office Space's thunder anytime soon. Originally published: September 4, 2009.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers Miramax brings Extract to Blu-ray in a thoroughly unremarkable 1.85:1, 1080p presentation. I have no idea if the film was shot in Super16 (the IMDb provided no help), but this transfer has a persitent softness and unimpressive latitude I've come to associate with that format, looking an awful lot like the recent BD release of Chasing Amy as a matter of fact--although with grain less obviously tamped down by digital forces. Flesh tones are consistently and occasionally overwhelmingly bronze in a way that does not seem at all desireable or intentional, and overall there is just very little nuance to the image. The accompanying 5.1 DTS-HD audio crisply renders a mix so modest it's practically monaural. As for extras, three negligible albeit better colour-timed "extended scenes" (4 mins., 1.33:1/SD) join an even more negligible "deleted scene" (40 seconds, 1.33:1/SD) plus the 11-minute HD featurette "Mike Judge's Secret Recipe", a by-the-numbers making-of that predictably finds the Extract cast reserving their most fawning comments for Judge. Like virtually every joke in the movie proper, a bit of staged B-roll in which Judge directs his own cameo (as an actor, he's billed as "William King") narrowly misses the bullseye. "Sneak Peeks" at When in Rome, Surrogates, and The Boys Are Back round out the menu and cue up on startup as well. Originally published: December 21, 2009.