If I had to compile a list of writers or directors who I felt were under-appreciated for their works in cinema, Mike Judge would be somewhere near the top. The man responsible for the years-ahead-of-its-time 'Beavis and Butthead,' the modern workplace gem (and borderline live action 'Dilbert' adaptation) 'Office Space,' the satirical look at the future based on current trends 'Idiocracy,' and the fan favorite television program 'King of the Hill,' Judge has created worlds full of utterly inept and idiotic characters who are easy to love. His latest work, 'Extract,' sort of follows in that tradition, but unfortunately, the ineptitude lies more in the story.
Joel (Jason Bateman) is the owner of Reynold's Extract, a local manufacturer and bottler of, you guessed it, flavoring extract. Being owner isn't all its cut out to be, though, as the sale of the company is perpetually being sabotaged by his unwitting employees, with almost floor-manager Step (Clifton Collins Jr.) causing the latest issue, after a forklift accident leads to a lawsuit against the company. Joel's wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) doesn't help, as the pair's sexual frustrations lead to a half-witted experiment by Joel's bartender friend Dean (Ben Affleck) that leads to extreme infidelity. At work, an unscrupulous new temp(tress) (Mila Kunis) only adds to the confusion in Joel's life, which is turning into a disaster with every passing minute.
'Extract' may be one of those cases where high expectations (based on Judge's past works) and potential (a strong cast, also including 'David Koechner, J.K. Simmons (in a hilarious role), and Gene Simmons of KISS fame) are squandered at every turn. The avalanche of problems in the factory is reminiscent of a bad episode of nearly any sitcom where every plan to resolve the issues only backfires in more and more inglorious ways.
The trailer had promise, but it seems it was more a compilation of some of the more marketable jokes, particularly the sweatpants gag (meaning you ain't gettin' any!). That one minute worth of footage is offset by an hour and a half's worth of tongue-in-cheek inanity with a completely different tone. False promise aside, there were a few fun bits, though even fewer laugh out loud moments, a killer for the comedy genre.
Does 'Extract' do anything right? Most certainly the dialogue and character interaction are the stars of the show, while the absurdity of each character and a factory and world full of people more pathetic than the last, has a charm to it. Some conversations show the twinkle of what made 'Office Space' so memorable, though the situations surrounding those gems bury the redeeming qualities. Koechner's character, the annoying neighbor, is a shining star at every turn, with one of the best payoffs, possibly ever, for a character of this sort.
'Extract' requires patience, as well as a sense of humor, to get through the proceedings. In the end, the only thing that is truly memorable is the taste left in your mouth when it's over. No, it's not vanilla. Not almond, either.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Extract' arrives on Blu-ray on a single layer BD25 disc, with an attractive white and blue slipcover (which would have been better if it were made more like a package for Reynold's Extract...). There are a few pre-menu trailers, but they're all skippable through the top menu button. The disc is coded for Region A.
'Extract' comes to Blu-ray with an AVC MPEG-4 1080p transfer (at 1.85:1) that isn't very likely to wow any audiences. There are many shots that are clean and quite solid in terms of their high def presentation, with solid colors and the occasional sharp image, but the majority of the film is mired in one issue or another. The laundry list of problems that may be found on a scene to scene basis include: blurry backgrounds, flat images, dull textures, lack of detail in clothing or facial features (including blending arm hair), light halos, small dirt blips, digital noise, occasional orange skin of the non-cheeto variety, back acne, wobbly picture, subpar delineation, soft shots straight out of the DVD era, and loose bowels. If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact your physician, or blame your Blu-ray copy of 'Extract.'
The audio for 'Extract' doesn't fare that much better than the video did, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (while a lossy dub in French, and French and Spanish language subs are available for non-English speaking consumers) that has as many issues as strengths.
Dialogue is clear, save for a few muffled lines, and is always prioritized in this mix (which is much less than a sonic bombardment). Dynamics are flat, with no range to speak of, while bass levels are dead. Many rooms sound utterly empty when crowded, though the factory scenes have nice ambience from all around, soft as it is (the fifth season of 'The Office' sounded busier, and I can guarantee there are no conveyors or heavy machinery in the Scranton branch). In some of the livelier scenes, with people bickering, sounds can blur and become indistinguishable. Motion is nearly non-existant, directionality is weak, and localization is soft in its meager existence. You can't expect 'District 9' level activity and clarity, and really shouldn't, but 'Extract' should have been more flavorful than this.
Flavorless may be the best word for 'Extract,' bad pun that it may be. Mike Judge's signature flawed characters are present, but the world they inhabit is just too difficult to get into. The Blu-ray release of 'Extract' is not much better, with flawed audio and video, and a weak pile of extras. Even fans of Judge's work should just rent it, rather than putting down cash on a title that may sit on the shelf, never again to find its way into a player.