Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunshine Cleaning vs. Extract: Which Kicks More Ass?

I know, I know, you're probably sitting there thinking to yourself, Hey! The Movie Hooligan! That's insane! Comparing two movies like that! Especially those two. Why, tha'd be like trying to compare Clerks 1 to Clerks 2! (directors cuts) Or The Godfather to The Shawshank Redemption!... okay, bad examples. Oh, whouldn'tcha know it: Avatar's slipping already. That's gratitude for ya. Anyway, just bear with me on this. Sure, they're both about totally different subjects. Sure, one's a chick flick and one's a night out for the boys. Sure, one's ideologically driven and the other isn't... I forget which ones. Someone check the World Socialist Web Site to remind me. But if you peel back the onion layers just a little bit, if you look a little deeper, similarities begin to emerge. After all, both were made in the same decade. And both are set in present day. Oh, sure, they're no Up in the Air, but in their own little ways they're a reflection of the era we're living in. There's bootstrapping involved in both to varying degrees. And both are of the comedy genre, or rather, of the neo-indie comedy oeuvre genre, driving down that road paved by pioneers such as the Coen brothers, Alexander Payne, and to a lesser extent, Bagdad Cafe. Both aren't the best work their makers have ever done: one from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, the other from the director of Office Space and Idiocracy... and the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head.. No! No! Not that one! King of the Hill and The Goode Family. THOSE are the respectable ones! But most importantly, there is a rather direct link 'twixt the two: both feature the work of respected character actor CLIFTON COLLINS Jr.! Yes. Best known for his role as Vato #2 in Menace II Society, he unfortunately wasn't given a plum role in the Hughes brothers latest: The Book of Eli. But never mind! He's got these two to boast of! So let's just jump right in: which kicks more ass?


Welp, in the wake of Breaking Bad and ... something else, Sunshine Cleaning should fit right in. Who did LMS anyway? Checking the IMDb, as I way too often do, there's about 50 producers, but some of the names the two have in common are Peter Saraf, David Friendly, and a bloke named Marc Turteltaub. Any relation to Jon, perchance? Apparently not. I don't know if comedic sensibilities are genetic, but if they are, clearly this is a case of sympatry. But there I go again trying to squirt a little fancy book-learnin' into where it clearly doesn't belong. Well, one thing the two films have in common is kind of a, let's be kind and say a shallow look at relationships. Or rather, let's say their points of view are skewed by the screenwriters' respective genders. In this case, the film was written by a chick, so the men are all pigs. Well, just that damn hunky Steve Zahn. Go figure. He plays a cop who's having an affair with high school sweetheart Amy Adams, the movie's hero. Now normally I wouldn't root for the hero of a movie that's an adulterer, but damn it, that's just how good Amy is! I mean, damn! She's got TWO Oscar noms under her belt already! Emily Blunt is in this too, and her career's similarly on fire right now. And she DOESN'T play the sister of Mary Lynn Rajksglh... lemme double-check the spelling on that. Rajskub? Hmm. Must be Anglo-Saxon. No, Blunt plays Adams' sister, and you'll wish your girlfriend was a freak like her. They're the dysfunctional Lorkowski family, and they're not exactly in the Middle Class, if you know what I mean. But fortunately, Zahn feels guilty a lot, and he gives Adams a tip on a good job: cleaning up messy crime scenes. Oh, and the film opens with such a crime scene, incidentally. You'll never forget it.
Clifton Collins plays the one-armed proprietor of a cleaning supply store that Adams goes to to get cleaning supplies. Not to give too much away, but you might be jaded like me and try to think two steps ahead of the movie. Will these two fall in love? The answer might surprise you... or maybe not. Guess I better not get into it. I couldn't help but think of Breaking Bad, if only because they were both filmed in the Southwest, and both are about normal people finding themselves in unusual, technical circumstances... I'm just sayin', I'm not trying to sound superior or nothin. It made me think of another one I've seen recently (other than Extract) but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. But I won't lose any sleep over it, and neither should you. The cinematography wasn't terribly flashy, and I think the film needed something. I should mention that a vote was taken during the viewing to move on to something else, but was voted down. I tells ya, we're heading for an insurrection!



Yessir, 2009 was a good year for Jason Bateman, no question about it. And people sure love that Arrested Development. I saw the one with Martin Short; I never seen him spit so much in one spitting! He plays Jason in Couples Retreat; I don't know if that's out of respect, or just laziness on the screenwriter's part. If I may be so bold, it IS laziness in Desperado when Steve Buscemi's character is named Buscemi. I don't care what anyone says. But back to Bateman. He could very well be the Tom Hanks of the 2010s and beyond. Bateman's in the same position that Will Ferrell would be in were it not for that damn pressure to do or say something funny. No, Jason will never be cursed with that. And so it's only fitting that he play the boss of a vanilla extract company in our instant case, Extract, the latest from Mike Judge. Apparently all those disgruntled fans of Office Space are tightwads because they stayed away from this in droves. But God bless him, there is no easy formula for a Mike Judge film. Here, Bateman plays Joel Reynolds and his company is Reynold's Extract, makers of vanilla and almond extract, what have you, but that's not the main thing. The main thing is, it's a company that actually makes something useful, rather than a seemingly redtape mill that Office Space's Initech was. Reynolds lives comfortably in the suburbs next door to a Lundberg type played terrifically by David Koechner.
But all is not well in paradise, as we learn. As Joel confides to his bartender friend and confidant, he and his wife haven't had sex in months now! Eventually, a notion is borne: why not hire a gigolo to have sex with your wife? This way, if Joel has an affair, he won't feel guilty about it. The target of his seven-year itch: Cindy, played by Mila Kunis, who toiled in near anonymity all those years on That '70s Show, but it's paying off now. Now you might not think she has the chops for a meaty role like this, but obviously you never saw American Psycho 2! ...come to think of it, neither did I. Anyway, you get the idea of the skewing here: women are either cold wives or manipulating kleptomaniacs. But you can sorta see that Judge is trying to make a larger point; man, something bad musta happened to him! Supermodels, you're on notice. Your Italian banker boyfriends aren't gonna take it anymore!
But enough about all that. Check out Clifton Collins in this role: compared to the other movie, he seems like a local! In this one, he ends up losing a testicle in an industrial accident. Why, lesser actors couldn't do it with all their body parts intact, I tells ya. Here, he auditions for the throne left vacant by Jim Varney. I think Larry the Cable Guy's a little too zaftig for it. J.K. Simmons was briefly let go by the Reitmans to play Bateman's right hand man who calls all the employees nicknames like "dingus." If Simmons ever gave a bad performance, I don't wanna know about it. So where does this fit into the Judge oeuvre? Somehow I can't give this four stars, as good as it is. Idiocracy so far is his masterpiece. That's definitely a four star movie. I promise I'll get around to it one of these days. I'll give it what I give Office Space: three and a half. Four for the soundtrack.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan


Aiden R. said...

Even though I didn't see it, I'm going for Sunshine Cleaning on this one since Extract didn't kick ass whatsoever. Mike Judge, man, what a disappointment, thank God he decided to cast Affleck at least.

The Movie Hooligan said...

Come back after you see it! See if you still agree...