Mishandled Movies: Idiocracy Isn't The First

Mike Judge's new movie Idiocracy opens this weekend, with absolutely no support from 20th Century Fox, the studio that owns it. Fox is dropping it in 130 theaters with only a week's notice, without a single movie trailer, and without even bothering to issue an official poster for it. They're in effect, killing it. People won't see a movie they don't know exists. If Idiocracy succeeds it'll be nothing short of a minor miracle.

Were it a piece of crap, Fox's treatment might be understandable. But it isn't. Idiocracy, like Office Space before it is another piece of satirical brilliance from Judge. The guy's a genius, and Fox either doesn't understand what they have on their hands or absolutely understands and find themselves utterly afraid of it.

Whatever their reasons for taking a great big dump on a fantastic, hilarious, destined for cult-stardom film, Idiocracy and Mike Judge are being tossed in the trash. It's not like this hasn't happened before. Idiocracy isn't the first great film to suffer destruction at the hands of its own studio. It's not even the first one in the past few years. With Idiocracy being set up to fail, now's a good time to look back at some other recent works of genius that ended up in a dumpster after being completely mishandled by a studio. Some of them made their way back out again and achieved cult success on video, others remain unseen, and completely unappreciated. Sometimes Hollywood really sucks.

Below (2002) - Whenever anyone asks me to point them to a good movie they might have missed, the first word out of my mouth is Below. Written and directed by David Twohy, the guy behind the cult-hit science fiction movie Pitch Black, Below tells the story of supernatural happenings aboard a World War II submarine. It's not just brilliant, clausterphobic storytelling, it's genuinely terrifying. In fact, it may be one of the best horror movies of the past ten years. But Bob and Harvey Weinstein run Dimension Films ran it into the ground by releasing it without advertising, and without fanfare. The movie came and went from theaters in October of 2002 before anyone had a chance to realize it was there. It grossed a pitiful $605,000 before ending its extremely short theatrical run. On DVD a few fans caught on to it, but the movie never really caught on enough to be called a cult hit. It's hard for a movie to become a hit of any kind unless someone sees it.

Equilibrium (2002) - Alright, I think this one's pretty overrated, but even if I don't like it it's gained a huge cult following since it's release in December 2002. Once again, Dimension/Miramax was the offending studio. Despite heavy support from internet opinion makers, the movie arrived on the heels of a half-hearted marketing campaign, opened at #20, and disappeared from American theaters before the geek crowd got mobilized enough to see it. It's since gained a following on DVD, enough to allow director Kurt Wimmer a shot at another movie. That movie was Ultraviolet… perhaps cult success isn't always a good thing.

Donnie Darko (2001) - Nearly everyone knows Donnie Darko now, but when it was first theatrically released in October of 2001, it came and went with barely a whisper. The few critics who saw it (including me) gave it rave reviews, but the film was almost universally ignored until it hit DVD and audiences figured out what they'd missed. Again, it suffered from an invisible, nearly non-existent marketing campaign from New Market Films. Though in their defense it may not have been out of malice, but merely impotence. Still, the film was virtually ignored at first. Later, as audiences discovered it in their homes it gained enough popularity to merit a second theatrical release, this time in the form of an inferior director's cut redo by director Richard Kelly, flush with too much money. Now when you ask someone why they're wearing that stupid man suit, there's a good chance they'll know what the hell you're talking about.

Office Space (1999) - Yep, another Mike Judge movie. He just keeps getting screwed. 20th Century Fox was again the culprit, though the film got comparably much better treatment than Idiocracy. Still, Fox mishandled its marketing campaign so badly they might as well have not even bothered. They never understood what they had on their hands, which left Office Space stranded. The film did manage to gross $10 million before it completely disappeared but it wasn't until it hit DVD and video that audiences really caught on to it. Since then it's found a place as one of the most loved comedies of all time, and sits pretty comfortably on the best ever list of anyone whose ever been held prisoner by an evil cubicle.

Josh Tyler