September 04, 2006

MOVIES: Idiocracy (Mike Judge, 2006)

This movie's been sitting on the shelf for at least a year, and has been dumped into a handful of theatres in a few cities, with no advertising support; it wasn't made available to critics for review before opening. Those are normally indicators that we have a massive turkey on our hands, but Idiocracy, though certainly no masterpiece, isn't that big a disaster.

Luke Wilson stars as Joe Bowers, a private in the army who's chosen as the guinea pig for a hibernation project; he's chosen because he's a perfectly average guy (and he has no family who would be upset if something goes wrong). Unable to find a suitable female soldier for the experiment, the military recruits prostitute Rita (Maya Rudolph). Joe and Rita are locked into their cryo-coffins, which will be opened in a year.

Well, things go wrong (as they do in movies like this), and it's 500 years later when the boxes finally open, releasing Joe and Rita into a vastly changed world. Stupidity has taken over completely. The most popular TV show is Ow! My Balls!; the latest Academy Award-winning film is Ass, a 90-minute shot of -- yup -- someone's ass. Brand names have become personal names -- Joe's lawyer is Frito Lexus (an annoying performance by Dax Shepard) and the President is Hector Mountain Dew Camacho. Joe is given an IQ test, and with his perfectly average score of 100, is declared to be the smartest man in the world and drafted into service by the US government to solve the many problems faced by this society of morons.

The background is the best part of the movie. Judge provides a perfectly plausible explanation for the spectacular dumbing-down of America, and the look of the movie is terrific, with every square inch of space cluttered with trash and decay. The story is a bit weak, and there's only so many laughs to be gotten from stupidity, no matter how spectacular it may be.

It's probably not worth forking over full theater prices to see Idiocracy, but like Judge's Office Space before it, it may well develop a healthy cult following on DVD.

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