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Extract

tn_extractSomebody requested I review EXTRACT, even knowing that I have a hard time writing about comedies and whether they’re funny or not. But you know how I am, I strive to achieve excellence, make everybody happy and proud, etc.

EXTRACT is the new picture from Mike Judge who did cartoons, then OFFICE SPACE, then IDIOCRACY. It’s a low key comedy but made me laugh alot and gets better and better as it goes along. There’s not really a high concept to explain here, which was also true of OFFICE SPACE, but at least with that one you could say it was about the torment of being an office worker. This one is about a guy who owns an extract factory being sexually frustrated and dealing with a worker injury lawsuit. Does that sound awesome, or what?

Jason Bateman, whose work in TEEN WOLF TOO we recently enjoyed, plays the guy in question. It’s not a stretch for him, it’s pretty typical of his work these days and also fits the Ron whatisdick role in OFFICE SPACE of the everyman who has more common sense than the other people around him, but still does some stupid shit. The rest of the people in the movie are all kind of supporting roles with lots of the kind of observational character detail Judge is so good at. Most memorable are:

-Ben Affleck as a shaggy-bearded, drug obsessed bartender friend who keeps giving him stupid advice that he seems to eventually take just to get him off his balls.

-Clifton Collins Jr. and Beth Grant as rival workers in the factory

-David Koechner as his neighbor who’s hard to get rid of. I never really liked this guy when he was on Saturday Night Live, but he’s usually funny in movies.

-Gene Simmons is really good as a scary personal injury lawyer

mattschulzeand most impressively Matt Schulze has a small but effective role as Willie, a psychotic drug afficionado and/or dealer. Most of you probly don’t know who that is, but he was one of the special ops vampire guys in BLADE II (also in part 1 somewhere as a different character). I know him mainly from OUT OF REACH as Faisal, the white slaver and sword expert who kidnaps Seagal’s penpal. He’s hilariously awful in that one so I love that he is genuinely menacing in this comedy. What he does in the movie is pretty over-the-top but he still comes across to me as very authentic, less cartoonish than, say, the construction worker neighbor guy who was so good in OFFICE SPACE.

Like many (most?) comedies, most of the story comes out of the protagonist doing something completely asinine – he hires a gigolo to try to seduce his wife so if she falls for it he can hit on his super hot intern (Mila Kunis) and not feel guilty about it. You see characters cause problems like this for themselves all the time, but sometimes you’re just supposed to make a leap that a supposedly reasonable person would decide to do something like that. Judge respects the character’s decision-making more than that so he has him under the influence of alcohol and horse tranquilizers when Affleck pushes him into this plan.

Of course it (SPOILER) doesn’t go well. This is a unique and laidback comedy with many unexpected turns and laughs that sneak up on you. Even at the end you know it’s basically over and you expect an obvious little wrapup, and then something kind of nuts happens. And it has a little bit of sincere sweetness. You know, it’s not alot of punchlines and big laughs, it’s more the kind of jokes where you laugh a little and then you kind of think about it more and keep laughing into the next scene.

If I have one complaint it’s that I think the women get a little bit of a raw deal. Mila Kunis is basically the villain who uses her hotness to take advantage of guys. She doesn’t really get to be funny and only gets any dimension to her in a little touch near the end. Beth Grant is actually one of the funniest characters I think, but she’s a small part and basically an awful person too. And Kristen Wiig as Batman’s wife (I meant to type Bateman but now that I typed it wrong I think I’ll leave it. Sometimes the greatest discoveries are by accident, like that whole thing with penicillin or whatever it was) I think could use more fleshing out. In some senses it’s a great character for a woman in a comedy, because she does get to be funny and also gets to be sexual without being a sex object – it takes seriously the idea that she deserves to be sexually satisfied. But with a little more screen time I think she could’ve had more dimension to her character so you had more of an idea of her personality and why Bateman/Batman fell in love with her in the first place.

But I also gotta admit that I liked her in the movie and usually hate her on Saturday Night Live, so that says something.

I really liked this movie, but it’s a small one, it won’t appeal to everybody. I think it’s a more solid and consistent movie than IDIOCRACY, but at the same time it doesn’t feel as great because that one had such a strong point about what’s going on in our culture. It had bigger laughs and it hit hard enough to hurt. OFFICE SPACE (still Judge’s best I think) maybe wasn’t as much of a gutpunch as IDIOCRACY but its observations about working are so universal. I’ve never worked a job anything close to that but still felt like I could relate to it.

EXTRACT doesn’t feel as much like it’s “about something.” But it’s some good shit. I hope Mike Judge keeps making movies like this, but clearly the geniuses in the movie marketing business disagree with me. They have done everything they could to end his career from movie 1. To be fair, he makes their job hard. I mean, any idiot should’ve been able to do a better job of explaining IDIOCRACY, or at least releasing it in theaters. But like I mentioned, OFFICE SPACE and EXTRACT are both pretty tough to describe in traditional advertising.

Still, I gotta call bullshit on these posters. I mean look at these:
mp_extract
The one on the right pisses me off the most. “A comedy for anyone who punches in and checks out”? What the fuck, man. The movie is about the boss at the company. The character shown on the poster is a bartender at a sports bar, and he seems to enjoy himself at work. That has nothing to do with the movie, and nobody wants to see a rehash of OFFICE SPACE. This poster reminds me of some bullshitter trying too hard to sell me magazine subscriptions. Fuck this poster.

The one in the middle I guess is arguably the least ugly, which is sad. This one says “Working for the man sucks. Being the man blows.” I guess that is at least somewhere around 45% accurate about the content of the movie. But Mila Kunis really isn’t working for the man, and doesn’t have a giant hand either.

The one on the left, the only one I’ve seen printed on actual paper, is sadly the best one. If you’ve seen the movie it actually kind of makes sense, because there’s a testicle injury that’s central to the story. That’s why there’s one crushed walnut and why it’s “a comedy that hits you where it hurts.” This also kind of makes me think maybe there’s something more to the title – he’s a maker of cooking extract, but also he’s having this crisis in his marriage, there is alot of symbolism about having balls and maybe the semen is the extract of mankind, and– well, maybe not. It made more sense before I typed it.

Anyway, that’s if you’ve seen the movie. If not it just says “Ha ha. Balls.” It’s like they say, IDIOCRACY is a documentary.

There’s a couple other posters I found online, one with a less ugly design and one that just shows Mila Kunis, and both say “Sticking it to the man has never looked so good.” Again, this has no connection to the movie at all. Kunis isn’t some kind of folk hero and doesn’t ever pretend to be. One of them shows Bateman with a black eye, as if he is “the man” who we are “sticking it to.”

I don’t know, man. I’m not saying I could do a better job. But I bet they could. Or at least they could follow MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS’s example and just make it look like the cover of my book.

I will end with an important rhetorical question related to the terrible marketing of IDIOCRACY. You ever notice how often they use that “guy shrugging” approach to comedy posters?

shrug

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, September 20th, 2009 at 2:51 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

29 Responses to “Extract”

  1. I laughed pretty hard at the picture at the end

  2. Ha! Love the HELLRAISER the gag at the end, Vern. I was on the fence with this one but I think I’ll give it a go.

    The tagline for Hellraiser should be the one from the Ben Affleck poster.

  3. Mike Judge has been screwed over by the studio system so many times now. Won’t he ever learn and find different ways to market and distribute these films ?

    Vern’s rant about the film posters is too funny. Ben Affleck could pass for White Jesus in the 3rd one

  4. “This one is about a guy who owns an extract factory being sexually frustrated and dealing with a worker injury lawsuit. Does that sound awesome, or what?”

    Nice observation. It’s a lot like Coen Bros movies that can be summarized like “A barber tries to get into the dry cleaning business” and “A man invents the hula hoop.” Not to exciting or groundbreaking on paper, but the movies end up being about a lot more.

  5. Thanks for the review. Dug the Hellraiser gag. It’s true that a lot of the women were some of (okay, pretty much all of) the weaker characters. But Step’s cousin was a great movie white trash bastard. All of the smaller characters, like him, Brad and Willie were some of the best. They were one-note without being one-dimensional. The humor stems from their personalities, and not from any wacky gags, which is probably what turned off a lot of people. Also, the plot wasn’t resolved in an orderly, Wedding Crashers-esque formula finale.

  6. by the way, this is a weekend review. There will be a few more back-to-school reviews starting on Monday.

    Also, I want to make sure everybody knows that Hellraiser thing is the actual cover, not a Photoshop. I think the shrug represents Doug Bradley saying, “What, man? I don’t see *you* putting food on my table. Don’t you DARE judge me.”

  7. Yeah, it would have been 62.5% less funny if it had been ‘shopped.

    If you put David or Maher against the Hellraiser background there’s really not that much of a difference.

    Dunno if it’s my resolution but Pinhead seems to have quite a friendly smile on that Poster. Maybe he’s mellowed out a bit?

  8. I’m feeling a bit of a victim here, Vern you state you try to please all of us, but when I suggest a review of Teen Witch, while I’ll be the first to admit that it was in a roundabout away, I get nothing! Not like I asked for a friggin’ comedy.

  9. From now on I’m going to think of Hellraiser as the OG: the Original Guy-shrugging.

    And the less said about the patron saint of Guy-shrugging the better:

    http://poietes.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/bush_shrug2.jpg

  10. Guy Shrugging would be my name if I were both British and a porn star.

  11. I couldn’t find your “Idiocracy”-review (I’m sure you wrote one), otherwise I would have posted it there, but did you know that someone is seriously selling BRAWNDO: THE THIRST MUTILATOR!!! Y’know, the drink that has electrolytes.
    http://www.brawndo.com

  12. I’ll always love Schulze as Faisal, the world’s greatest Charlie-Brown-Chirstmas-Tree villain. He tries so hard
    to be villainous but he just can’t seem to get it right.

  13. Hey if you’re taking requests, why haven’t you reviewed “REC” yet? It just came out on a USA coded disc, you can rent it at Blockbuster or Netflix. Youll dig it.

  14. Hey yeah. [Rec] was pretty fucking cool. I assume leaps and bounds beyond the American remake “Quarantine”. You know, the one where both the trailer AND the poster reveal and ruin the last shot in the movie. Oh, SPOILER.

  15. jsixfingers: not to mention that the American version of [Rec] pretty much ruins the original Spanish version for anyone who hadn’t seen that one yet either.

    Having said that, the Dexter girl wasn’t the worst choice for the American version, at least on paper. Having seen the Spanish version, I can’t be bothered with the American. Probably do the same with the Let the Right One In remake (which will probably be re-titled Teen Blood or something in its American version).

  16. actually guys despite the fact that [REC] is pretty good, I kinda think Vern wouldnt be into the fakeumentary style. And to be honest its kinda gimmicky anyway, it only really takes off at the very end, although unfortunately much better than DIARY OF THE DEAD. Eh, actually its pretty good. But I can’t really imagine a happy ending for Vern with it.

  17. I liked [Rec] because unlike most other fake-documentary films I didn’t feel like it was being used as a gag or a gimmick. It felt real and fucked up, in a very uncomfortable way. Watching something like Cloverfield or Diary I was constantly aware of how “cool” and “unconventional” the filmmakers thought they were being, shoving the handheld camera aspect in your fucking face the whole time. LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME! [Rec] just seemed organic, like a fucked up horrible situation that just happens to be caught on tape. I loved it.

  18. just thinking about the final scene in Let The Right One in gives me chills

  19. Sorry, I like [rec], but I still couldn’t warm up with the documentary gimmick. Yes, it was used effective, but since most of the scares where so staged that they would have worked in a “normal” movie too, if they were staged the exactly same way. I even go so far and say that Cloverfield (which I also really like) had a bigger justification for the way it was filmed. It was the juxtaposition between the gigantism of a Hollywood monster movie, and the intimacy of a guy with a camcorder, which made it interesting. If they had filmed it in the normal way, it would have been the same as usual.

  20. I kind of like the fake documentary/lost footage “gimmick” but Quarantine did just about everything wrong that Rec nailed. The biggest being you really cant have name/recognizable actors in the main parts. I dont know if the folks in REC are name actors in their home country but that really spoils the whole illusion, even though you know that what you are seeing obviously isnt real. And they didnt even use real video, which also ruins it.

  21. Quarantine wasn’t bad, wasn’t great, but you could at least follow what was going on. Does the fact that Jennifer Carpenter in John’s daughter get her a lifetime pass on this site? That and she’s a pretty good actress in some bad movies.

    I agree that [rec] is the best of the non-comedy mocumentary type movies.

  22. Fuck Cloverfield.

    Biggest overhyped disappointment in a while.

    [REC] however had no hype going for it when I saw it, at least not that I’d read or heard. Maybe its an adjusted expectations deal, but I would rather watch two hours of infomercials than sit through Cloverfield again.

  23. Wow I had no idea Jennifer Carpenter was John Carpenter’s daughter, dopey me. Love her on Dexter.

  24. Holy shit, I had no idea. Thank God I never had any impire thoughts about her. I would feel really guilty the next time I watched a John Carpenter interview where he’s sitting there in that same gray sweatshirt smoking a cigarette inside like a real American.

  25. Obviously, I meant “impure.” I had plenty of impire thoughts about her. Whatever that means.

  26. I think that is incorrect, checked IMDB and Wiki no mention whatsoever of her being related to John Carpenter. Says she was born in Kentucky and loved hunting with her father. Think they would have mentioned that but maybe Im missing something

  27. Wow, what a shocking plot twist. Maybe one or both of the Carpenters will show up to set this matter straight.

  28. When I first took note of Jennifer Carpenter on “Dexter” I really wanted her to be John’s daughter. But as far as I could ever find, that is not the case.

  29. (I totally forgot about the Hellraiser joke and pissed myself from laughing.)

    Anyway, I just watched it and really liked it. It’s part of my favourite sub-genre, which I like to call “movies about an awful lot of nothing”. Y’know, films that don’t really have a story and more feel like a string of losely connected incidents during a short period of time in the protagonist’s life. Stuff like Trees Lounge, L.A. Without a Map or Garden State. (To an extent even The Big Lebowski.) And it always amazes me how Mike Judge manages to get humor out of the most normal things in life! I mean, everybody knows a guy who won’t shut up although you obviously not just try to avoid, but also don’t like him. Or the two nags who always blame others for their incompetence. Shit, I worked with one of them for 6 months! Too bad that this went straight to DVD here, but well, it’s one of these movies that will find a bigger audience that way.
    BTW, our DVD cover is this:
    http://twitpic.com/2ascd8

    The German title translates to “squeezed out” (Still got no idea why they called it that.) and the tagline says: “The job can sometimes go on your nuts”. I also wonder why they put Kristen Wiig’s name on the cover, because I doubt that enough people know her here to get excited over her name. (SNL only runs here on pay TV, cut down to 45 minutes per episode and in english without subtitles [which is cool, but also a good way to keep normal viewers away from it.])

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