I have a soft spot in my heart, I freely admit, for the wacky, New Age mania of Heather Graham, hence my interest in ExTerminators, a 2009 film starring her, Jennifer Coolidge and Amber Heard, and only now making its way to Blu-ray and DVD. A dark comedy of putative female empowerment, the movie dutifully winds up its laboriously colorful characters and sets its plot traps, and then pretty much charts a course of expected zaniness.
After an incident following a bad break-up with her
cheating boyfriend, Alex (Graham) is sentenced to 12 months of anger
management counseling, where she meets a group of small town Texas women
with similar stories of romantic woe, including Stella (Coolidge), the
owner of a financially troubled extermination business, and Nikki
(Heard), a dental technician with the face of an angel, the mind of a
sociopath and a big-time oral fixation. When the ladies band together to fight
back against the abusive lout husband of a friend (Joey Lauren Adams) from their counseling group, a deadly accident ensues. When their actions are subsequently taken as purposeful by their grateful friend, and rewarded with money, the women sense they may have stumbled across a niche business, even as Alex finds herself drawn to a handsome cop, Dan (Matthew Settle), investigating the case.
ExTerminators is the feature film debut of its chief collaborators, screenwriter Suzanne Weinert, who cut her teeth running Julia Roberts’ production company, and director John Inwood, who worked on Scrubs for many years, as both a cinematographer and director. There’s some measure of delight in a bit of the dialogue, but the tone feels a bit off, trying as it does to juggle a sunny optimism with a conceit that is darker, all under the banner of a visual style and scheme that is more or less straightforward and realistic. A lot of the smaller story details feel safe and cutesy (Alex hatches a cover-up plot based on her years of watching Law & Order), and there aren’t the sort of narrative surprises herein that are necessary to keep an audience invested in what is otherwise a fairly flat telling of a potentially raucous and/or subversive concept.
Housed in your typical Blu-ray case, the movie comes to the format in 1080p, enhanced for 16×9 televisions, with a DTS HD master audio 5.1 track that more than adequately handles the fairly straightforward aural demands of the title, if just a bit tinnily in its higher registers. Somewhat surprisingly, there isn’t even a chapter menu, and apart from a clutch of trailers that automatically play upon start-up, bonus material consists only a 27-minute gag reel which affords the chance to see line reading flubs and some of Coolidge’s improvisational riffs, including one about having sex with a man in a cricket costume. C- (Movie) C+ (Disc)