September 4, 2009
On the Big Board
|Funny but ultimately not very substantive.
|Ben Affleck's scenes were the funniest. Pretty funny movie though I exited feeling some regret over paying full price.
|Mike Judge is so hit-or-miss. Extract is no Office Space, but not nearly as bad as Idiocracy. I loved Jason Bateman here, and if you're a Ben Affleck fan, you'll enjoy him in this.
Mike Judge has carved out a very enviable place in the realm of cult within the pop culture firmament with successes on both the large and small screen. As the creator of not one but two long-running animated series - Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill - he has turned a keen eye on both teen male metalhead morons and the Texas blue-collar class and found something to celebrate. Well, celebrate might be a little strong in the case of B&B, but their juvenile shenanigans were only half the story. Their criticism of music videos during their show often seemed to whack the proverbial frog with a baseball bat and expose the ridiculousness not only of the music they loved but most music in general. Is it just me or was this the beginning of the end for MTV showing music videos more than they showed would-be reality TV 24/7? Perhaps Mike Judge hath wrought more than he knows. (I am sure Rob Zombie still sends him regular thank-you cards for kickstarting White Zombie’s visibility and career).
Aside from TV, Judge has been involved in several feature film projects as a director that have helped to cement his cultdom. The first, Beavis and Butthead Do America opened quite strongly for a non-Disney animated film in the '90s with a $20 million plus debut weekend and final domestic gross of nearly $65 million. B & B is a perfect example of striking while the iron of morons is hot and Plus, it features the truly brilliant and hysterical scene where Beavis attempts to grasp that his television set has been stolen: Camera pans from footprints leading into bedroom to vacant spot where TV should be to footprints leading up to and out open window. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. That, my friends is comic gold.
1999 brought Office Space, which performed as all true cult hits should and underwhelmed at the box office ($10 million final gross). In fairness, the trenchant workplace satire is best appreciated with a large group of people who are very pissed off about their day at work and have been imbibing their favorite alcoholic beverage. Not so much ahead of its time as unnervingly dead-on in its depiction of the cubicle milieu, it needed time for its potential legions of disgruntled fans to discover it on their own and become familiar with the comic genius of Gary Cole. Judge’s last outing as director, Idiocracy, hasn’t quite enjoyed as kind of a fate yet. Buried by 20th Century Fox with a bare-minimum release over Labor Day weekend 2006 in 135 theaters, it didn’t quite reach half a million in total gross domestic. While WALL-E took dystopia to the masses thanks to the geniuses at Pixar, perhaps no one was quite ready for a future in which Luke Wilson winds up being the smart one by default and humanity (re: America) has reverted to sheer inanity.
Extract, Judge’s latest project, is another workplace comedy of sorts, but with a more high-profile cast that could lead it to be his biggest financial success since B & B. Jason Bateman plays the put-upon plant manager at a walnut extract plant contending with a lawsuit from an employee who has lost part of his manhood in a very freak factory accident. Meanwhile, Bateman’s lack of recent intimacy with his wife (Kristen Wiig) has him open to the charms of a new temp worker (Mila Kunis). Thankfully, the friendly neighborhood bartender/pot dealer (Ben Affleck) is there to steer him in the right direction. Umm, if the right direction includes advocating infidelity and massive amounts of bong hits, that is. Extract has casting that benefits from Apatow by association all around, particularly the welcome charms of the always enjoyable Bateman. Affleck for his part, looks shaggier and more character actor-y than he has been since he was paddling asses in Dazed and Confused. That, I think, can only help the film! (Brett Beach/BOP)