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Movie Review: Idiocracy

Directed by Mike Judge
Written by Judge and Etan Cohen

Idiocracy had the strange misfortune of not opening wide last year, an oddity considering that Fox’s last Mike Judge picture, Office Space, became a huge hit once it came to video. They might have been thinking, “Why come out with the movie in theatres, when it could just be a hit on video?” but doesn’t opening a movie in theatres add legitimacy? There’s the very rare exception, such as Boondock Saints, of a movie finding an audience without even the hint of a wide theatrical release. But perhaps after their failure with My Super Ex-Girlfriend, also starring Luke Wilson, they might have gotten gunshy. We may never know.

Judge has always found some sort of niche with his comedy. Beavis & Butt-Head was something that probably would have had no chance to survive if it weren’t for the rapidly-dwindling video format of MTV. That success led to ten seasons of King of the Hill on Fox, always somehow surviving in the shadow of The Simpsons and regularly being bumped in favor of the fourth quarter of some NFL game every Sunday (at least where I lived). Then, Judge did Office Space, based on his “Milton” shorts on MTV. Anyone who saw the movie in theatres liked it, but it didn’t flourish until video. Perhaps Judge’s comedy can never be “big time;” you’ve just got to know where to find it. Those who do are usually rewarded.

Idiocracy concerns the decline in human civilization, and as the opening amusingly suggests, evolution, which is supposed to favor the best and brightest, actually favors the Springer crowd. So we see the interview of an IQ-efficient couple trying to conceive, and failing, compared to the trailer-park trash who seem to be reproducing at the rate of every expletive they utter.

Joe Bowers (Wilson) is an army librarian, and with no special skills or family to care about, is ordered to take part in an experiment in which he will be frozen and thawed in a year. Also tagging along is prostitute Rita (SNL’s Maya Rudolph). As always in experiments like this, things go wrong on the outside, and the two are frozen for some five hundred years, entering a world where dumb is normal and smart is “faggy.”

It’s a world where Springer guests and corporate sponsorship (which, let’s face it, may have been another reason the movie only got a video release: Carl’s Jr, Starbucks, Costco, and a drink much like Gatorade get slammed in this flick) have married and have had incest babies.

Where a show called “Ow! My Balls!” rules the ratings, and all the Homer Simpson/Beavis & Butt-Head/Dumb & Dumber, etc. vices and philosophies are king, the very different Joe finds himself incarcerated for a ridiculous charge. He is then not given a fair trial (because, what is that?) and is mismanaged by his moron lawyer Frito (Dax Shepard). When he takes an incredibly easy IQ test, he is found to be the smartest human on Earth, and President Camacho (Terry Crews) offers him a cabinet job, with a full pardon, if he can solve the mysteries of some of their problems (Why aren’t plants growing? Well, they aren’t using water).

Much like Office Space, this film is highly imperfect, but it does its job as a comedy, and this is what counts. Judge has a lot of ideas crammed into this short movie, and the scary thing is, I think many of us actually believe a world like this can exist (beyond the obvious exaggerations). Here, living in 2007, where we daily give undeserved attention to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, have a screwed-up political system, a sports-over-education mentality, and so on, it’s not too hard to think that if the gene pool plays a certain way, in five hundred years the world could devolve into a bunch of Springer Butt-Heads.

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