Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Movies You May Have Missed - "Idiocracy" 2006

Mike Judge is a clever fellow and his muse is dumb people. He mines that dumbness for all its worth in his TV shows (Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill), and in his cult film, Office Work, but especially in Idiocracy, where the future United States is populated by more than 300 million stooges. The premise: smart people wait forever to have a minimal amount of children, until "the time is right," while unthinking people procreate like rabbits. At this rate, we're doomed to become a nation of stupefied vulgarians.

Like Woody Allen in Sleeper, Joe, well-played by a perplexed Luke Wilson, is a reluctant time-traveler. Sitting out his career in the corner of an Army library, waiting for his pension to kick in, he's the most average protagonist you'll ever meet. He's handpicked, alongside a prostitute, Rita (Maya Rudolph), by his superiors for a deep-sleep experiment. With no family ties (other than Rita's pimp), Joe and Rita are the perfect human guinea pigs. Except something goes wrong and they wake up in the year 2505. Joe and Rita are now the most intelligent people on a planet full of brain-damaged oafs.

This is a future world were proper English is considered "faggy," and television entertainment consists of a guy getting his balls kicked in every 10 seconds. Movies are completely plotless, just endless images of farts being laid, and corporations have taken over everything, including drinking fountains, which spew green liquids full of electrolytes because we're told we need them. Infrastructure has collapsed because people are too dumb to figure out solutions to their man-made problems, and marketing is EVERYWHERE.

The one-joke premise drags in places and average Joe is running from authorities too often to hold my interest. These types of directorial problems don't hurt Office Space, because the world of that film mimics the sameness (and lack of ups and downs) of office culture itself. But when you're creating a future world, the drama is expected to be ramped up and more arc-like. Anyway, Idiocracy was dumped off the face of the earth by its distributors, only opening in six cities before whip-panning into a DVD release. Savage satire is not always embraced by the corporations it's targeting.

I do find a lot to enjoy in this vision that is, like most sci-fi, exaggerated notions of today. The visual effects are hilarious—apparently our future is one of filthy, highly sexualized, over-the-top decay. A surprisingly large VFX budget was spent on a film doomed to obscurity. But the joke runs long. I don't like anyone in this future population, which is run by idiotic bullies from my middle school (Update, 2016: well, waddaya know? What a prophetic film). My genetic make-up is satirical in nature, but I felt despondent for Joe and Rita throughout much of their story. I'm only human, with my puny emotions.

There's also some initial stereotyping until later scenes when everyone is lumped into the same caricature boat. Casting and surnames should have been balanced out throughout the film, not only to avoid racism pitfalls, but because stereotypes are jarring, taking us out of this future world, and plunking us back into our present (Update, 2016: the prophesy continues!). I wish Rudolph, who can be so casually funny in almost anything, had been given more to do. Her hooker without a heart of gold is just as much of a "genius" as Joe, but he gets all the conflict and resolution. Still, Judge's message is apt and gives us a bit of hope: use your brain and celebrate others who do so. And don't recap Celebrity Wife Swap on your blog, like I thought about doing today.

And now: Idiocracy. These are mountains of garbage that everyone is too stupid to do anything about. Sounds familiar.

Luke Wilson looks pretty much like this throughout. He should do more comedy—a very good understated actor.

Time for some home entertainment. Ow! My Balls! is on.

Our heroes, like many of us today, head to Costo for some answers.

This is only a slight exaggeration of Costo, or at least what Costo feels like.

Dawn at the White House. (Update, 2016: Oh, Jesus, this film is scaring me.)

Dawn at the White House

Future fashion consists of tight, synthetic athletic-wear, plastered in corporate logos. Wait, what year is this again?

Our dumb future—can't wait. (Update, 2016: God, help us all.)

And welcome to Costco.

Leonard Maltin recommends Idiocracy in his book, "151 Best Movies You've Never Seen." Leonard Maltin is my obscure-movie Jedi knight and I follow his advice.

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