Idiocracy

2006, Movie, R, 83 mins

Review

IDIOCRACY
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Although Mike Judge's second feature is unabashedly lowbrow, it's also profoundly disturbing. An equally scathing and silly sci-fi satire about the dumbing down of American culture, it proves its point by peddling the same kind of gross-out, profanity-laden gags it indicts. TV viewers sit on hybrid toilet chairs so they don't need to pause shows like "Ow! My Balls" when nature calls; coarsely named corporations (Fuddruckers has morphed into Buttf--kers) hook kids on sex, violence and high-fat foods; and the motorcycle-riding president (a hilarious Terry Crews) came to fame as a wrestling champ-cum-porn star. Judge's gags are aimed squarely below the belt and leave a queasy feeling in your stomach: His vision of the future may not be that far-fetched.

Worried that their best soldiers are going to waste during peacetime, the Army comes up with a hibernation program that would allow the cream of the uniformed crop to be frozen until needed. Low-level grunt Joe (Luke Wilson) and mouthy streetwalker Rita (Maya Rudolph) are picked as the project's guinea pigs and placed into stasis, to be revived in a year. Unfortunately, they're forgotten until they awaken five centuries later to discover that the collective American IQ has dropped so precipitously that they're the smartest people alive — smartest by a vast margin. Through a series of misadventures, Joe goes from prisoner to presidential adviser while Rita continues to hock her wares. When Joe honestly tries to help a useless society — his main task is to determine what killed all the crops — it's futile. Every time he uses a multisyllabic word, he's dismissed as "a fag."

Judge has enjoyed immense success on the small screen — King of the Hill is still going strong on the Fox network — but he's fared less well with 20th Century Fox films. OFFICE SPACE (1999), now a bona fide cult classic, debuted with little fanfare. And though Fox was contractually obligated to release IDIOCRACY theatrically, the studio opened it on a handful of screens in secondary markets without advertising, reportedly because of discomfort with the film's skewering of corporations and consumerism. Heck of a great backstory, no? Sadly the film, while fun, doesn't quite live up to its underdog history. For all its outrageousness, Judge's screenplay follows a standard formula, and after a while (around the time that Joe and Rita pair up), the narrative begins to peter out. Total world implosion is its only logical conclusion, but even Judge won't go there: Perhaps he holds out hope that we're not as stupid as we seem. leave a comment --Raven Snook

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