Mike Judge's first movie since 1999's massive cult hit Office Space rolls out in eight cities this weekend, almost as an afterthought. Actually, afterthought isn't the word. Idiocracy is being treated like a red-headed step-child. Fox is intentionally and inexplicably trying to kill it. Idiocracy arrives without a movie trailer or even an official poster. 20th Century Fox hasn't bothered to let anyone review it, and in fact until about a week ago when some executive decided to change his mind, the movie wasn't going to be released at all. Usually when a movie gets this kind of treatment it's because it's a piece of crap, but Idiocracy is one of the best movies of the year.
Judge is a brilliant satirist, and anyone who thought "Beavis and Butt-Head" was glorifying the stupidity of America's teenagers probably shouldn't bother seeing this. Or maybe you should, since this movie is aimed squarely at all of you.
Modern science fiction usually portrays the future world as a shiny utopia of science and advanced learning. Either that, or it's a post-apocalyptic wasteland ravaged by science gone amok or man's own arrogance. Idiocracy takes a look at where the world's headed right now and says forget it. None of that's going to happen, we're just going to get really stupid.
Think about it. Who has the most kids? Stupid people. They're out their breeding like rabbits while geniuses spend their time developing a cure for male pattern baldness. That's the gist of the hilarious opening sequence to Idiocracy. The smartest, the most fit among us no longer procreate while the stupid screw their brains out ensuring that the human race as a whole gets stupider and stupider and stupider. Without any natural predators to thin the herd; with science, welfare, and television keeping the dumbest alive, healthy, and happy enough to remain potent we're done for. Evolution will take its course and centuries from now we'll become a planet full of Bam Margeras.
Idiocracy's story begins with an average Joe from the beginning of the 21st century. Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) to be exact. A low level military scrub, Joe tests out as the most average guy the American armed forces have to offer. When told to lead, follow, or get out of the way Joe happily steps aside to let other soldiers get through. In other words it's a perfect role for Luke Wilson. Luke's at his absolute best here, this is the role he was born to play. Joe on the other hand is perfect for the military's latest experiments in cryogenics. He and a hooker turned guinea pig named Rita get frozen, stay in too long, and wake up 500 years later where Joe Bauers is now the smartest man in the world.
The future is full of idiots who've thrown everything they have into buying Big-Gulps and watching porn. The most popular television show is called "Ow, My Balls" and features exactly what you'd expect. The highest grossing movie of all time is called Ass, and consists of 90 minutes of the same naked, hairy butt on screen farting itself silly. America has gone to hell in a hand basket. Garbage avalanches are common, crops have failed, and people are staving, all because there's no one left who's smart enough to know how to fix any of it.
The film's all-out, hilarious assault on the future's culture is also a biting criticism of our own. As the world's people have gotten dumber so have its businesses. It's corporate America that takes the biggest belly blow, and there's no way Judge did it with their blessing. Costco is an all-powerful, all-purpose monolith. Carl's Jr.'s is the world's leading food provider/robber baron, a Gatorade-like drink with "electrolytes" has replaced water (except in toilets), and Starbucks has become a popular chain of jack-shacks. Ordering a "latte" is now an inexpensive and socially acceptable way to get full-release.
I hate to get caught up in conspiracy theories here, but these companies can't possibly be happy with having their name associated with things like hand-jobs. 20th Century Fox has to have felt at least some pressure from their billion-dollar corporate brethren. Fox is the pet of Rupert Murdoch after all. Captain of industry, baron of big business. Maybe that explains the film's shoddy treatment? Hey, I'm just thinking out loud.
Back to the point, what all of that adds up to is a bitingly funny movie that shoots sharp, sometimes subtle, sometimes in-your-face arrows at the Jackass crowd and the general dumbing down of mankind. When Idiocracy does a fart joke, the real gag isn't the passing of gas but who it is that's laughing at it. The film is full of genuinely gut-busting, laugh out loud moments that don't go away. Every scene is packed with little details, from crazy stickers to hairdos in the crowd.
The cast is a brilliant amalgam of Judge regulars like Stephen Root in a great cameo role, and perfectly fit newcomers like Dax Shepard as Joe's dim-witted, future best-friend Frito. Terry Crews, probably best known as the dad on TV's "Everybody Hates Chris", is iconic as nine-time Smackdown champion and leader of the free-world President Camacho. Even Maya Rudolph, whose appearance usually signifies the end of all things good, is killer as a hooker from the past convinced that her pimp will find his way forward in time to beat her ass. You know what? She almost had me convinced that he would.
Idiocracy's target may be more broad than Office Space's and it's not quite as instantly quotable, but it's every bit as strong a satirical gem. Fox can try to kill it, but assuming they don't find some way to keep it from coming out on DVD, it's destined to become another cult mega-hit for writer/director Mike Judge. How much money do his movies have to make on DVD before studio executives figure out what he's about? The man is brilliant, and there's no excuse for burying his film in a hurried, limited release that guarantees nobody will even know that it exists let alone go out and see it. All this movie needed was a trailer with the words "From the writer and director of Office Space" slapped on it to make a cool $50 million. The guys over at 20th Century Fox are clueless, and so they've mishandled another piece of Mike Judge magic. Get out and see it anyway. From start to finish this film is sharp, clever, and downright funny. Five years from now you'll be able to brag to your friends that you saw it years ago in a theater when they're all just discovering it on home video. You can't beat scoreboard like that.