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Review: 'Idiocracy' doesn't deserve its bum rap

Posted Sunday, January 7, 2007 at 10:19 PM Central

by Tim Briscoe

Idiocracy is going to be a polarizing movie. There will be many people who love it and others who think it's as stupid as the futuristic people it portrays.

I'm happy to say I'll be on the positive side for this one.

Writer-director Mike Judge's new movie is about a very average U.S. Army soldier named Joe Bowers, played by Luke Wilson, who participates in a top secret experiment to test one year of human hibernation. His female counterpart in the test is a tough-talking street walker played by SNL's Maya Rudolph.

Due to a hilarious bit of misfortune, the two test subjects are forgotten about after their year-long hibernation is over. Instead, in Rip Van Winkle style, the two sleep 500 years. When they awake in the year 2505 they don't find the advanced civilization one might expect. Rather, Joe discovers that mankind has devolved or regressed into a too-reliant-on-machines society which has caused them to become insanely stupid.

This movie was Mike Judge's highly anticipated follow-up to 1999's Office Space. It least it was supposed to be. Idiocracy's distributor, 20th Century Fox, for some mysterious reason did not give it the theatrical release you would've expected for such a beloved filmmaker. After all, Mike Judge is the guy who gave birth to animated TV shows Beavis and Butt-Head and the long-running King of the Hill. Of course he also created the much-quoted, cult film Office Space. The live-action workplace comedy is still a best seller on DVD.

Idiocracy was shown in just 125 theaters -- a far shot from the usual 2,500-3,000 screen wide release most major films receive. Fox didn't give it any marketing promotion either: no trailers, no TV commercials, no press attention, no nothing.

The reason Fox dissed the movie so awfully can't be because it's bad. Far from it. It's actually quite good. It falls short of the high status I hold for Office Space but it's a very different kind of film.

It's satire. It's trying to prove a point (and a very powerful one at that) about the growing degradation of human intelligence.

You see it all the time: cashiers who can't make change unless the register tells them the amount; colleagues who couldn't draft a well-written email message, void of misspellings and grammatical errors, if their life depended on it; or even the rise of Jackass or America's Funniest Home Video TV shows that get the biggest laughs when a guy gets hit in the naughty parts.

The nature of the satire in Idiocracy very much reminds me of another laugh-out-loud satire from this summer. One which was coincidentally also released by Fox: Borat.

Idiocracy doesn't match the outrageousness of Borat but it is as deceptively intelligent.

It's truly a shame that Fox didn't give this one more of a push at the box office. A Mike Judge movie of this quality deservers better. But the good news is that this one will find a good home on DVD, just as Office Space did.

And for the record, I think that was Fox's intention all along with this movie. They saw all their hard work (read: money) go for naught in Office Space's theatrical release. It was released on 1,700 screens and made just over $10 million but yet soared to unimaginable heights on video and DVD.

They figured the could just cut to the chase with Idiocracy. The theatrical run was a mere formality for a successful DVD release. And I can't blame them one bit. (But then again, what if they did that same thing with Borat?)

So go out and watch Idiocracy on DVD. You'll be glad you did. Just don't forget to think after you've had one of the biggest laughs of the year.

Recommendation: Rent It