Mike Judge has had a rocky career. After Office Space (which eventually found a massive cult following on DVD) failed to make any kind of impact, it seemed that Judge’s legacy would be that of Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill, as nothing in live action ever seemed to pan out (immediately, at least). Everything about his latest film, Extract, seemed to indicate that it would be a successful, fairly mainstream hit…only it ended up not being either of those. Despite a fairly well-known cast, headlined by Jason Bateman and J.K. Simmons, the film didn’t find any footing and after mixed reviews from critics the film opened wide and…promptly went away. Although it did make money (the film was budgeted for $8 million and made almost $11), the film quickly left the public conscience.
Joel Reynolds (Jason Bateman) is sitting pretty. With a beautiful wife, a comfortable home and the almost finalized acquisition by General Mills of the culinary extracts business he has built with his loyal lieutenant Brian (J.K. Simmons), Joel seems to have it all. Except his wife is about as interested in him as she is in her career (supermarket coupon design), his employees want a piece of the pie and the sweet young thing with designs on him (Mila Kunis) is really a wily con-artist. On the advice of a drug-addled confidante (Ben Affleck), Joel cooks up a scheme to cheat with impunity by hiring a gigolo to seduce his wife—only to discover the young object of his affection is behind a lawsuit by long-time employee Step (Clifton Collins, Jr.) that will scotch the General Mills deal and leave Joel penniless. The best-laid plans unravel with hilarious results in this off-the wall comedy about life in the not-so-fast lane.
No one wanted this movie to be funny more than me. Office Space isn’t the type of film that you see once and decide you love; it grows on you. In fact I found myself quoting it years later after only having seen it once, simply because it began to occur to me just how funny that film was. It now proudly stands on my comedy shelf as an example of the type of humor that drives my collection. So when Mike Judge came out with Extract, I was excited. Interviews in various magazines led me to believe that this was Judge finally getting on track and with Arrested Development star Jason Bateman in the lead, I was eager to check the film out.
So I did. And I didn’t like what I saw. I loved the cast and the humor was exactly what I wanted, but the film itself just didn’t sit well with me. There are some similarities with Office Space (since the back of the box includes a quote from a critic that “If you like Office Space, you’ll really love Extract!” I figured I’d touch upon that), what with a man who feels an injustice done to him eventually gets what he deserves in the end. It’s satisfying in that regard, but pretty much everything leading up to it isn’t really all that enjoyable.
Sure there’s a plethora of jokes and humor to occupy your time with in this film, but none of them really fly and hit their mark as you hope they would. The situation with Joel’s neighbor (David Koechner) is hilarious, but there’s little payoff (well there’s some serious payoff at the end, but it really doesn’t do much for me) and just the whole premise of the film seems to be entirely wasted. Speaking of a waste is Mila Kunis’s character, who we see so little of you wonder why they even bothered casting someone with her presence if she rarely commanded attention for the film. It was a nice little un-twist that her character didn’t completely screw Joel over in the end, but it wasn’t enough to redeem the movie for me.
I think what kept the movie from being truly satisfying was that…well, I don’t know. To go back to the Office Space comparison for a minute, in that film the main character was looking for a relationship as well as satisfaction with his job. In Extract, the main character was looking to have an affair since his wife wasn’t interested in him anymore and he was trying to get out of a job at a company he created. They parallel (not perfectly, admittedly) but where Office Space excelled was you could relate to the main character in his wanted achievements. Here Joel drove a 7 series BMW (hint: it’s not cheap), had a gorgeous house and was poised to make millions from the General Mills buyout. Ok so you can’t relate him on a financial level, but was there anything else you could relate to? Annoying neighbor? Lust for a hot young thing? Stupid co-workers? Sure. But none of them were enough to offset the fact that Joel’s predicament really wasn’t all that bad to begin with.
For awhile I was buying into the premise of the film, but when the end came and it turned out that after all he’d done Joel still ended up cheating on his wife…well, it just seemed stupid. His character was kind of built up as a kind of moral guy and when he caved like that it just seemed…unnecessary. Yes, his wife slept with the gigolo he hired (fifteen times at that), but…I don’t know, it was just irksome to me. The rest of the films ending was satisfying in that he got his redemption at work, but it really wasn’t enough.
The film had some laughs and for that reason alone it was Recommended, but overall it just wasn’t something that stuck with you. The only thing that stuck with me after the credits rolled (and we got a mildly humorous conclusion to the small Gene Simmons part) was how disappointed I was the film didn’t leave you with more. I love pretty much all of the actors involved and everything about this film screamed “winner!” from the trailers…but, alas, ultimately there wasn’t much to go back for. There were some really solid jokes and laugh-out-loud moments but when you find yourself bringing up BMW.com to see how much a 7 series costs during the film itself, it’s a sign that there’s something wrong. Although whether that’s a reflection on my attention span or the movie I’m not sure. But in the end you’ll find it worth viewing at least once if you like Judge and/or any of the cast involved (interestingly Ben Affleck isn’t even pictured on the cover, despite being the “biggest” name in the film), just don’t expect to come back for seconds.
Miramax brings Extract to Blu-ray in a standard Elite Blu-ray case. On the exterior is a slipcase that boasts the same art as the jacket underneath (both of which have Bateman’s shiner on the wrong eye…weird) and simple disc art. Inserts include the usual for a Buena Vista/Miramax title and the menu is simple and easy to navigate.
Video? Well, it’s a newly minted AVC encoded transfer of a modern film so it looks great. Scenes in the bar are appropriately dark and there’s never any sign of crushing or compression. It’s barely an hour and a half long and that gives it plenty of breathing room on this disc to stretch its legs. Of course its legs aren’t overly long as it’s a comedy film and about the most exciting visual you’ll see is a pool filled with green/brown muck and leaves floating on it…but, man, look at the detail of those leaves! At the same time there’s an odd washout look over the skin tones and daytime sequences of the film…and the film takes place mostly in daytime, so it’s kind of strange that the film looks the way it does. But then again, it was and $8 million dollar budget.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and, as one would expect from a comedy, it’s extreme overkill. Rarely do you hear much in the surrounds except for bar chatter, but it’s still a very clean and clear audio mix nonetheless. I doubt you’ll find anything about this mix that’s particularly impressive, but it’s clean, clear and…well, that’s all you could ask for, really. Although the opening mishap that drives most of the story does fly around the room a bit.
Extras for this Blu-ray release include:
• Mike Judge’s Secret Recipe (10:48) – What are the ingredients of a classic Mike Judge film? Go straight to the factory floor to uncover the writer and director’s secrets. From shooting in a real working factory to the unique cast of characters and situations, Mike Judge always seems to have the right recipe.
• Extended Scenes (4:29) —5 scenes featuring extended portions with Joel, Dean and Brad that didn’t make the final cut of the film.
• Deleted Scene (0:37) —Straight from the factory floor, watch this exclusive deleted scene where Dean explains his rather abrupt departure from Willie’s party the night before and finds out Joel got punched in the face.
As you can see…not a whole lot. The additional scenes are exclusive to Blu-ray so…hooray for that I suppose. I know the film didn’t perform well but a commentary would’ve been nice at least. Oh well.
Overall I wanted this film to be just as enjoyable (or at least half as enjoyable) as Office Space. I instead got a few genuinely good laughs out of the picture and…nothing else. A bummer, but not entirely unexpected. This is a strict Rental as the A/V mix isn’t anything spectacular, the extras are incredibly light and the film…well, I’m sure there are those out there who really enjoyed it. But to me, with a cast like that…it just seems like a big wasted opportunity.
Extract arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on December 22nd.