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Thursday, October 28, 2010

ExTERMINATORS -- DVD review by porfle

If listening to the Dixie Chicks warble "Goodbye Earl" gives you a lift, then you'll probably enjoy ExTERMINATORS (2009).  Unless, that is, you're one of those weirdos who prefer their comedies to actually be funny.

After getting fired from her accountant job and then divorcing her lazy, no-good husband for cheating on her, mousy Alex acts out her anger by decking a bespectacled guy in a department store.  (It's the usual cliche' of two women fighting over a piece of merchandise during a clearance sale, but this time Alex's opponent happens to be a man in order to comply with the film's theme.)  Anyway, this lands her in a rage-management therapy group along with several other women who have "man problems", including Stella (Jennifer Coolidge), who owns a pest control service, and punky, chain-smoking fruitcake Nikki (Amber Heard). 

When they witness another woman in their group (Joey Lauren Adams) being slapped around by her husband, they follow him in Stella's car one night and accidentally run him off a cliff.  The grateful widow then gives them $10,000 before leaving town to start a new life.  This comes just as a creepy IRS agent named Hutt (Sam Lloyd, the creepy TV-Guide guy from "Seinfeld") is breathing down Stella's neck about her back taxes.

To Alex's dismay, Stella and Nikki go into the lucrative man-killing business, and, with more and more potential customers joining their therapy group, they make a killing (intentional pun!) as the body count escalates rapidly.  Torn between friendship and morality, things get worse for Alex when she falls in love with Dan (Matthew Settle), the lead detective on the case, and then discovers that Hutt, who's been stalking her, has amassed enough videotape evidence to convict all three of them.

ExTERMINATORS presents a world in which roughly 99% of all men are leering, groping pigs who deserve to die, while the women who kill them aren't bloodthirsty psychos but simply lovable flakes. This makes whatever they do not only okay but downright cute, whether it be vehicular homicide, the old bludgeon-and-dismemberment routine, or simply setting a frat guy on fire for being a drunken ass. 

We're even conditioned for the distaff revenge fantasy to come when some of the early therapy sessions get borderline real and veer toward the preachy side.  But then the screenplay tries to have it both ways by showing Alex's disdain for such vigilante actions--at least, up until the point where she herself has something to gain by them.

Nevertheless, even if all this sounds to you like a surefire formula for hilarious black comedy, the film's dull script, meandering pace, and lackluster direction will eventually cure you of that notion.  Heather Graham, who used to be in good movies like BOOGIE NIGHTS, injects as much life as she can into her limp character by acting alternately perky and jittery, and by wearing giant glasses that make her look like that egghead kid from the "Foghorn Leghorn" cartoons.  Matthew Settle's "Dan" exists only to represent that one-percent of males who are harmless simps, and to give the filmmakers a chance to insert a series of romantic scenes such as the "meet stupid" and the ever-popular "goofy one-knee proposal."

Amber Heard spends the entire film either puffing cigarettes like a non-smoker pretending to be a chainsmoker, or sucking on Tootsie Pops ("Nikki" seems to have some kind of weird oral fixation), but her quirky affectations are more irritating than amusing.  Her high-school flashback story about having sex with a jock's "retard" brother for fifteen dollars and then getting stiffed (the jerk!) is just...oh, what's the word...disturbing?

Most disappointing of all is proto-MILF Jennifer Coolidge, because she's usually so effortlessly hilarious in such films as BEST IN SHOW and GENTLEMEN BRONCOS.  I've never seen her give a more lifeless, dispirited performance than she does here.  Strangely enough, the lengthy gag reel found on the DVD showcases her usual flair for funny improvisations, yet only her least inspired takes seem to have found their way into the final cut.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.  No subtitles or chapter list.  In fact, the only two clickable items listed on the menu are "Play" and "Gag Reel." 

I was rooting for the creepy IRS stalker guy while watching ExTERMINATORS, when I assume I was actually supposed to be on the girls' side.  Then again, I was also rooting for the movie to be on the funny side, and that didn't work out, either.

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