Trailerama: Extract (Mike Judge, 2009)

It’s always worth reminding yourself that Hollywood is a bloodier arena than the Roman senate on the Ides of March. Mike Judge learned this when he made Idiocracy. No film has come close to its skin-crawling vision of the future. Luke Wilson falls asleep for 500 years and wakes up in a world drowning in stupidity. Garbage assumes natural formations, energy drinks have replaced water, Starbucks is a brothel chain, and a pro-wrestler/porn star has become president. It’s American as apple pie and bleak as Haneke‘s Time of the Wolf.

20th Century Fox rewarded this unique vision by not screening the film for critics and releasing it into less theatres than Midnight Meat Train. Opinion was divided as to whether there was too much diss in the dystopia or whether Judge went too far in offending corporations with business ties to News International. Idiocracy didn’t fare much better than the Beavis & Butthead creator’s live action feature debut Office Space. So we can expect him to tread lightly for his latest film Extract, right?

What’s weird about the trailer is how little it actually tells us. Jason Bateman sits in the foreman’s office at a factory producing some bottled product. The workers are restless–there’s tension between an elderly white guard and ethnic workers. A Rube Goldberg-staged disaster inspires Bateman to make mumblings that sound like an impending mid-life crisis. His relationship with wife Kristen Wiig has gone cold–with her sweatpants acting as a kind of chastity belt. Life may pick up when the factory gets a hot chick (Mila Kunis) to work there.

The bland mise-en-scene recalls Office Space–Judge is a master at deploying colors which seem utterly neutral (and which make J.K. Simmons‘ red shirt pop out of the screen). Judge is just as keen when it comes to casting. SNL-er Wiig has been a MVP in many films over the last year, not least Ghost Town and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Ben Affleck also appears playing the “best friend” role, providing his unique spin on character to a shaggy stoner type. The rest of the characters seem like happy Know Nothings who wouldn’t be out of place in Idiocracy, like the irate assembly line worker and Simmons, who forgets the name of a new temp worker while drooling over Kunis.

Other than that, there’s not much to remark on. The opening chain of disasters suggests a deep appreciation for physical comedy and one looks forward to more of it. But it’s hard to say what this movie is meant to say or do. The scene of Affleck smoking out Bateman, in particular, makes Extract seem like the kind of male cry of anguish heard when Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen dropped acid and went to Cirque du Soleil in Knocked Up.

Extract is due to open on Sept. 4 in limited release. It is written and directed by Mike Judge. Cinematogapher Tim Suhrstedt and sound designer Martin Lopez both previously worked with Judge on Idiocracy. Editor Julia Wong worked on X-Men: The Last Stand. Production designer Maher Ahmad worked on Goodfellas and Mr. 3000.

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