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Film Review: Idiocracy
Idiocracy is currently the best movie in America that no one's ever heard of.
That doesn’t mean Idiocracy is great, but it certainly deserves better than the shabby treatment it's received from 20th Century Fox, which seems to have unceremoniously dumped the movie into unsuspecting theaters with a promotional budget approximating that of a typical Saturday night beer run. When it comes to screwing over Mike Judge, Fox has a tradition to uphold. Two words: Office Space. Here's hoping Judge isn’t destined to a career of making brutal satires that are criminally under-promoted by foolish studios who only exploit said films when they become cult classics. Granted, a movie that excoriates middle America for its stupidity is a tough sell, but if the studios can critic-proof My Baby Is An Ugly Man (better known by its non-Simpsons title, Little Man), they ought to be able to do something with Idiocracy.
I was lucky enough to see Idiocracy last night at the Arclight during what seems to have been its one-week run. Luke Wilson plays a relentlessly average rank-and-file soldier who is frozen as part of a hibernation experiment. When he wakes up 500 years later he discovers an America so knuckle-dragging dumb that he's easily the smartest person on the planet. Along with his fellow experimentee, a feisty prostitute named Rita (Maya Rudolph), he must navigate a society where the ability to form complete sentences makes you the lowest of the low: a fag.
In Idiocracy Judge gleefully indulges in all sorts of politically incorrect stereotypes about what it means to be low class -- fat, lazy, illiterate, lots of kids -- but he manages to find a balance, so pitiless satire doesn't descend into base cruelty.
That doesn't mean the movie is great. Idiocracy suffers from a general lack of dramatic tension, an over-reliance on narration and a host of supporting characters who are unappealing although well cast (Terry Crews as the president is brilliant!). Unlike Office Space, which had a near universal relevance for anyone who has ever worked in a white-collar office, the accusatory tone of Idiocracy has a more limited appeal.
Sure, Idiocracy is flawed, but it has enough twisted humor that it's well worth watching, and the movie should have a second life on the midnight circuit and as a DVD cult item.