Thursday, December 24, 2009

Review by Sombrero Grande

Hi, Mike Judge. Sombero Grande here. We need to talk.

Look... this isn't working out. Sure, we had a lot of fun in the past, but things aren't like they used to be. I've changed... or you've changed... The point is, one of us has changed, and I think it's best if I don't see you anymore, and by you I mean your movies.

Sorry, Mike, but after putting myself through Extract, I think it's clearly time that I move on.

I can still recall the first I ever heard about you. I'll admit that when I first became aware of Beavis and Butt-head, I was taken aback. "What is this garbage?" I wondered aloud to anyone within earshot. Yet, sometimes, secretly, I'd turn on MTV and I have to admit that I found myself giggling from time to time at your immature shenanigans. Later on I began to impersonate Cornholio in public and even revel in your characters' infectious laughs. I even saw Beavis and Butt-head Do America... in the theater. What can I say, I was young and foolish back then.

Then came Office Space. Now, I have to admit, I was highly skeptical at first. I expected a Dilbert knock-off, something made only to capitalize on the growing interest in cubicle-based humor, and gave it a pass in theaters, like so many others did. But my friends kept bringing up Office Space, telling me how great it was. Finally I agreed to watch it, and that one late night in college I sat in stitches. Okay, I had a few drinks in me, but when Milton started talking about the merry squirrels, I nearly passed out on the floor laughing.

Oh, those were happy times, Mike, filled with moments I'll always treasure. I still put Office Space up in my top ten favorite films to just pop into the DVD player and watch anytime, and can quote lines endlessly with a smile on my face. Just the other night my wife brought up Michael Bolton and I replied, "you mean the no-talent ass-clown?" Good times, Mike, and I thank you for those.

Red stapler in hand, I eagerly awaited your next film, especially when I heard the premise, but Idiocracy left me a little cold. The set-up and a lot of the early gags were great, but the dumbed-down nature of the narration and the fact that the story became so stupid towards the end... I'm sorry, but you started to lose me. And after watching Extract, I'm afraid it's become clear to me that I need to spend some time away from you.

It's nothing personal, you see, it's just that I found Extract to be only mildly entertaining, worth only a few chuckles, and sporting a plot that, while at first pleasantly unpredictable, never really payed off in any interesting or meaningful way.

I need more than just a few scattered chuckles in my life now, Mike. I need a decent story too.

As with Office Space, in Extract you've got a fantastic cast to work with, and they all perform impeccably as interesting characters. The problem is that Extract's story, well, it's just not really worth telling, and I never really cared a lick for any of your characters in it.

You've got Jason Bateman as Joel, the pathetic founder and owner of an extract manufacturing company who's in a rut. He doesn't like his job, his wife's (Kristen Wiig) affection is withheld behind old sweatpants, and his obnoxious neighbor (a delightfully subdued David Koechner) won't leave him alone. Then along comes a young, gorgeous con artist named Cindy (Mila Kunis) who makes his life go from bad to awful.

When the imbecilic staff on the factory floor cause an accident that ends up with one employee short 1.5 testicles, Cindy swoops in to befriend the victim and convinces him to sue the company, expecting to eventually steal his million-dollar settlement. This not only makes trouble for Joel on a professional level but on a personal level as well, when Joel misreads Cindy's manipulation as sincere interest and considers cheating on his wife with her.

From there the story twists and turns, but I never found myself liking a single character. Oh sure, Ben Affleck plays a great stoner bartender friend to Joel, the Lawrence to Joel's Peter Gibbons, but the audience is never really allowed to like the guy. Nor did I ever like any employee of Reynold's Extract. Beth Grant is a great character actor, the problem is that I've been nothing but annoyed by any of the characters she's ever played.

Gene Simmons is great as an asshole lawyer, but again, nothing about him is likeable. Even at their worst, the Bobs from Office Space were still somehow likeable, and the awful Bill Lumberg at least got shafted from time to time. Here, the villains never learn and somehow we're all supposed to be happy that all these scumbags get to have happy endings. Even poor Joel, who we only root for because he's constantly shat upon over and over again, gets the saddest happy ending of all.

The one bonus feature on this DVD release is laughingly entitled "Mike Judge's Secret Recipe." It's a shameless fluff marketing piece for the film, packed with the film's stars and key players all praising you, Mr. Judge, for knowing how to craft a comedy masterpiece. Apparently they hadn't seen Extract completed yet. Oh, and the tiresome bit wherein you pretend, Mike, that you have a twin brother playing your cameo role in the film, it's cringeworthy.

So, Mike, it's time for me to say adieu. If I've gotten nothing else out of Extract (and I haven't), it's the realization that it's time for me to move on. Thanks for the memories, and remember, we'll always have Office Space.


I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period.

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