Sunday, March 04, 2007


The Verdict: Mike Judge's future-shock view of American Idiots, good but not great.

The Rating: 6/10

It's a crazy world we live in, folks. I don't watch much television, but I've seen the trailer for Eddie Murphy's 'Norbit' on tv at least twice now, an indication of the kind of promotion budget this movie has garnered. A spectacularly brainless exercise in boiler-plate movie-making, almost completely devoid of any creative intelligence, Norbit has ingredients lifted from 'The Nutty Professor' (multiple characters all played by Eddie Murphy), but its essentially a rip-off of the detestable Martin Lawrence fat-suit car-crash that was 'Big Mommas' House' (or possibly the imaginatively titled sequel - 'Big Momma's House 2' - Ed). Meanwhile, 'Idiocracy' is struggling to survive, having slinked onto American cinema screens last September without so much as the existence of a poster or trailer. It tanked, but the lack of promotion budget can be explained quite simply after viewing the movie, which lampoons big corporations such as Fox Television quite excellently. (Hmmm - Ed)

The writer and director of Idiocracy, Mike Judge, is essentially a satirist, possibly best known as creator of 'Beavis and Butthead', or the far superior King of the Hill. However, he has also directed a great movie comedy, 'Office Space'. This little gem suffered the same distribution purgatory story as Idiocracy, but has since attained a real cult status on Dvd.

Idiocracy is a very different egg to 'Office Space', however. Set in the future, it's a comedy about an army officer named Joe - your average everyman, played by Luke Wilson - who agrees to undergo an experiment. Together with a female civilian from 'the private sector' - a hooker named Rita - the two are cryogenically frozen, with the intention being to defrost them after a year. However, the experiment goes awry, Futurama-style, and the pair wake in the year 2505.

The main premise of the movie is that the evolution of America is favouring the dumb. While the idiots conspire to totally neglect family planning, and conceive offspring at a frightening rate, the intelligentsia consider the decision to have kids interminably, and often end up not having any kids at all. The result of this syndrome? Greater numbers of idiots, and ever decreasing numbers of smart people. Mike Judge's simple premise provides a fair few laughs in this alternative vision of the future, quite different from the usual sci-fi fare where the world is either a post-apocalyptic charred hulk, an advanced industrial dystopia, or a culturally elevated, technologically advanced utopia.

In Judge's vision of the future, the idiots, quite literally, rule. Language has devolved into a hybrid of street vernacular, valley girl slang, and grunts. Corporations own government departments, the most popular tv show is called 'Ow, My Balls', and the big Oscar-winning movie in the year 2505 is called 'Ass'. Guess what, it's an 80-minute close-up of a bum, which farts occasionally... Somehow, Judge managed to include the brands of existing large corporations, such as Fox themselves, as well as 'Starbucks' and 'Fuddruckers' (an American fast-food chain), although his vision of how these corporations will manifest themselves in society in the future is possibly a little close to the bone of how they actually behave today... Although I'm not sure if Starbucks are offering 'Adult Lattes' just yet.. (I think I see why Fox wouldn't promote this movie - Ed)

Judge is satirising the Jackass-style dumbing-down of the world, and he hits a few sweet notes in this movie. The production design is far larger in scale than 'Office Space', with the use of CGI effects in a number of wide shots to emphasize the state of the nation in 2505, after the idiots have taken over. Luke Wilson's character is imprisoned for 'talking faggy', and his compulsory IQ test on admittance proves him to be the smartest man in the world, but what will he choose to do with this new-found - albeit relative - intelligence?

Wilson is amiable enough in the lead role, and Dax Shephard is also quite good as Wilson's guide, one of the future-shock idiots who happens to be Wilson's lawyer. (You may remember this guy from 'Punk'd', Ashton Kutcher's MTV show). Maya Rudolph is capable enough as Rita, the hooker who is convinced her pimp is still going to find her, even though she's 500 years into the future!

The movie itself is a pastiche of great ideas, and Judge's satire of the outcome of the dumbing down of American culture hits the mark. He makes his point quite well, and from quite early in proceedings, the main premise is simply reinforced by a large collection of visual gags, of which there are enough to hold the interest of the audience. Unfortunately though, there aren't that many belly laughs to speak of.

Also, I got the impression the plot was a little light on, well, character, exposition and resolution... There is a plot with a beginning middle and end, and there are three main characters, each with their own story, but the events of the story are pretty much used as vehicle for Judge to portray another satirical idea on screen.

All told, it's intelligent in it's satire, but a little lacking as a coherent piece of movie entertainment. It's quite ironic that Fox has decided not to promote this movie, however, as it contains an ominous picture of what the world will look like after 500 years of movies like 'Norbit'. (Yeah yeah! Ummm... that movie sucked! Or something.. mm hm, he he mm he! - Ed)

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