Mike Judge: Making no real money since 1997

Mike Judge has to be the Dwight Schrute of the movie business. He’s crazy (in a good way, not in that Anne Heche way), left of center, full of shrewdness, originality and talent that no one appreciates. And yet he keeps trying. And trying. And trying.

His latest attempt to educate the unwashed masses, “Extract,” looks to be yet another work of semi-genius that no one will see. And that’s sadder than a Lucinda Williams song (just pick one; they all make you want to find the tallest building with a hatch that leads to the roof). Consider the top-notch list of Hollywood comedic talent he’s lined up for the movie, scheduled for release in September 2009: Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, J.K. Simmons, Ben Affleck (think “Chasing Amy,” not “Reindeer Games”), Mila Kunis, David Koechner. The plot, which apparently centers on a plant manager (ahem, that would be Mr. Bateman) with a whole mess-o-problems, including a possibly philandering wife and underhanded employees, sounds like a Minesweeper-esque field of potential jokes.

Perhaps this all-star cast might do what past acting lineups have not. With Jennifer Aniston as its only bankable, high-profile star, “Office Space,” now Comedy Central’s go-to feature to fill airtime, didn’t exactly boast a high AIS (that would be you-know-what in Seats) quotient. What a pity. I can’t think of another movie that does a sharper, funnier job of lampooning the grudges and petty behaviors that characterize the 9-to-5 sector. It’s become a pop-culture phenomenon to the extent that you can buy a Jump to Conclusions mat.

That goes double for “Idiocracy,” a brilliant satire of how America’s lack of ambition/ennui will translate into legions of offspring barely able to spell their own names. “Idiocracy” offered a free pass to visit the crazy-brilliant innerworkings of Judge’s mind … but it opened in approximately three theaters nationwide. (Razor-sharp wit can’t do much unless people, uh, are around to hear and appreciate it.) By the time it made it to DVD, no one knew what it was, and people who bought it did so because they were Judge fans.

What’s the reason for this shutout? Lack of stars might be a problem, but not a huge one. I’d say the real reason has a whole lot to do with the fact that Judge isn’t afraid to — yikes, I can’t belive I’m about to type this — “go there.” Yes, there’s plenty of evidence to support the claim that his barbs are spot-on, from mocking the Costco mentality (“Welcome to Costco, I love you”) and the insanities of product placement (“brought to you by Carl’s Jr.) to the ridiculous complexities of red-tape and office paperwork (i.e., TPS report covers). It’s safe to say Judge is pretty fearless. He lampoons without fear of retribution. He won’t censor his creativity.

Sure, he’s gained a big following for “King of the Hill,” but let’s translate that to the silver screen. If “Extract” approaches a theater anywhere near you, buy a ticket. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

And if you don’t agree, I think a date with Beef Supreme might change your mind.

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