Poor Mike Judge. The guy just can’t seem to catch a break. King of the Hill, admittedly in decline for the its past few seasons, was axed by FOX in April. And on August 8th, ABC announced that Judge’s new animated sitcom, The Goode Family, would be cancelled upon wrapping its first season. September 4th also sees the release of Extract, Judge’s latest film comedy, which just like Office Space and Idiocracy before it, will likely die a slow death at the box office.
The messy production and release histories of Office Space, with its woefully botched marketing campaign, and Idiocracy, with its practically nonexistent theatrical release (and whisperings that 20th Century Fox may have intentionally stifled the film on account of its bold satirization of corporate culture), are already the stuff of cult comedy lore. Extract seems fated to plot the same course as Judge’s earlier features, but it does so carrying a whole new set of problems.
To begin with, like Office Space, it’s difficult to cut a theatrical trailer or 30-second TV spot for a film like this. Where the Office Space trailers leaned heavily on the ham-fisted “WORK SUCKS!” angle that painted the film’s sly treatment of middle-classdom and professional-managerial labour with pretty broad strokes, the Extract trailers seem to lean too heavily on, well, nothing. The theatrical spot says little about film besides a) Jason Bateman manages some sort of bottling plant and isn’t getting laid; b) the director of Office Space is going “back to work”; c) some guy loses a testicle or two in a freak accident orchestrated with Rube Goldberg-esque complexity and d) Ben Affleck is in it. If anything, it’s trying too eagerly to secure ample asses in the seats come Labour Day weekend.
I saw Extract yesterday and have to say, it’s worth seeing. As in Arrested Development, Bateman is great as the straight man grounding all the comic lunacy that surrounds him. His strained relationship with his wife (Kristin Wiig) is especially resounding, jibing nicely with the castrated labourer subplot. And as with Office Space, Judge still knows that its real-life’s moronic flourishes—like ordering “Extreme Fajitas” at a restaurant called Chotskies or calling someone a “ding ding”—that makes for good funny.
But Extract is admittedly a bit of a mess. Judge seems to have a hard time juggling his talent (Bateman, Affleck, Wiig, Mila Kunis, J.K. Simmons, and half a dozen others) and his tenure in TV comedy, from Beavis & Butthead through to The Goode Family, is apparent. Extract shows its seams in its overly obvious three act structure, with problems being introduced and resolved in half hour increments, and other plot turns seeming almost manically haphazard (characters literally drop dead—again, shades of Office Space). But despite this, there’s lots of funny stuff here. And maybe I liked King of the Hill more than most people (though it ran for 14 seasons, so I can’t be the only one), but I just feel like both Judge and Extract deserve a fair shake. It’s kind of like the old adage about pizza (and orgasms): even when Judge is off his game, he’s still pretty funny.
Also: I've been spending a good part of my week taking in the Toronto After Dark Festival, so expect a full update/recap after the festival wraps on Friday.