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!...read more
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.
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