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April 17th, 2007

Last night, Vic and I completed our trifecta of movie rentals with a viewing of Mike Judge’s future comedy Idiocracy. If you’ve never heard of it, there’s a good reason for that: it sat on Fox’s shelf for a couple of years before being dumped into 100 or so theaters with no marketing whatsoever, presumably to fulfill a contractual obligation. You’d think that a studio might behave more kindly toward a director like Judge, whose history includes the bona fide hits Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, and the cult film classic Office Space.

In one sense, I can understand their treatment of the film. Not that it was at all bad, but because it would have been tricky to market a flick whose core premise thoroughly insults the majority of the movie-going audience.

Luke Wilson stars as a completely Average Joe (named, er, Joe) who is the subject of a U.S. Army hibernation experiment. Both he and a prostitute played by Maya Rudolph are frozen and forgotten, only to be released in the year 2505.

In the intervening five centuries, mankind has devolved to a species of half-wits. As a voice-over explains, the smarter members of society put off having babies while the Wal-Mart crowd impregnated each other like beer-swilling rabbits. Modern medicine overcame natural selection, and the stupid inherited the earth. Somehow, this idea seems all too plausible in stridently anti-intellectual 21st Century America.

Joe awakens in a world whose inhabitants are barely able to take care of themselves. The few remaining skyscrapers lean on each other for support, and in one clever landscape shot, are seen to be lashed together with cables. Carl’s Jr. (new slogan: “Fuck you! I’m eating!”) dominates the corporate landscape, and the most popular movie is “Ass,” which features a 90 minute closeup of a farting ass, and won the Oscar for Best Screenplay.

Our average Joe finds himself hailed as the smartest man in the world and is made Secretary of the Interior with an expectation to fix the world’s problems, starting with the nationwide dust bowl. He quickly realizes that the crops are failing because they’re being watered with a sports drink, but because the drink manufacturer employs half the country’s population, he creates an economic crisis when he tries to switch the farms over to H2O.

There are a lot of funny moments in Idiocracy, but man, it is hard to feel any sympathy for the knuckle-dragging dullards of the future, and listening to them blather like perpetually-stoned morons for more than a couple of minutes is rough.

Still, it’s good satire, and there are many amusing visuals, including a miles-wide Costco store and a White House briefing table spanning two rooms courtesy of a roughly smashed hole in the intervening wall. It has some good, simple messages, extolling the virtues of reading and the need to embrace smart folks even if they sound “faggy.” Finally, it suggests that while an average man can’t change the world, he can get the ball rolling.

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