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Monday, September 04, 2006

FT » Film » Idiocracy

Up to this point, Mike Judge has done no wrong. Every single one of his creations has been both absolutely hilarious and absurdly realistic. Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill and Office Space all seemed pretty ridiculous at first blush, but each revealed unflinching truth beneath a veneer of whimsy. So, that being the case, why has it taken more than a year after being finished for Judge's "new" movie, Idiocracy, to finally be released -- and only an unpublicized limited release, at that???

Rumors have run rampant, including everything from repeated script rewrites, disastrous test screenings and even withdrawn financing. And given the fact that it sat on the studio shelf for more than a full year before being unceremonously dumped into a handful of theaters with no trailers or ads of any kind to be found, it would seem that perhaps rumors of Idiocracy's demise were not exaggerated in the least.

I had been desperately trying to keep track of developments on the Idiocracy front, which was made even more difficult by the fact that the oft-referenced "Untitled Mike Judge Project" has also been known at one time another by such working titles as 3001 and Uhhmerica. But a few months ago, I had pretty much given up hope on ever seeing this film, no matter what the title. So, it was quite a surprise when checking the local movie listings this past Saturday to find a late showing of Talladega Nights: The Legend of Will Ferrell's Undies (or whatever the heck it's called), I saw Idiocracy right there alongside the other films now showing at the neighborhood cineplex. I immediately notified all three of my friends, and off we went.

The premise of the film is classic Mike Judge: a stultifyingly average Joe (literally) gets volunteered by his Army bosses to participate in a living cryogenic experment, along with a low-rent hooker (played by SNL's Maya Rudolph), only to discover upon being unfrozen 500 years in the future that the world's entire population has been overrun by the unchecked breeding of mentally-deficient white trash and similarly dim-witted and empty-pocketed schlubs of all ethnicities. As a result, Joe (played by Luke Wilson) has shockingly found himself the smartest human alive.

Idiocracy plays something like a live-action Futurama crossed with the original Planet of the Apes, as Joe discovers his severely altered planet of tomorrow contains equal parts wackiness and danger. The condition of Earth five centuries from now proves to be fertile ground for Judge's biting satiric wit, as he attacks many of our developing societal ills with hilarious precision. Whether it's our growing prediliction for fatty foods, reality television or celebrity politicians, each target gets blasted by Judge's acerbic ray gun.

All that being said, it certainly is somewhat understandable why the studio might have been unsure exactly what they had on their hands here. Unlike the disaffected teens, suburban rednecks and downtrodden cubicle dwellers who inhabited his previous works, the masses might not be able to as easily identify with the characters from Idiocracy. The plot is a good deal more bizarre than what we've seen from Judge before, and though the gags are almost universally hilarious throughout, some of the performances and production values are not quite up to challenge.

But at the end of the day, a comedy is ultimately "judge"d by just one thing: whether or not it was funny. Any plot holes, production snafus or acting shortcomings aside, the humor in Idiocracy is relentlessly hilarious. And for that reason alone, it is definitely a movie worth seeing. The only question is whether or not you'll even get that opportunity. As it stands today, unless you live in or near Austin, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago or Toronto, you might not. If the powers that be decide to skip the nationwide theatrical release and plop it onto DVD, be sure and snatch it up when it hits store shelves.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hang on, did somebody say low-rent hooker?

Checking it out. Cheers.


4:13 PM  

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