Monday, 2 September 2013

Idiocracy Is One Smart "Dumb" Movie

In a lot of ways it's not hard to see why Idiocracy, Mike Judge's 2006 satirical feature, didn't find an audience...but of course, right off the bat and more than anything, it didn't help that the film was given no promotional push. (A release in the late August-early September movie graveyard period in a small number of cities, sans a trailer or other advertising by Twentieth Century Fox.)

No, this film (which carries a strong aura of the Beavis and Butthead attitude from Judge's previous work) is a bright piece wearing Jackass clothing - it laughs at dumb-downed culture while itself encased in a dumb-downed looking package. The lowbrow crowd wouldn't appreciate the ribbing (...or wouldn't get a lot of it) and some of the upper-crust intelligentsia, while in full agreement with Judge's observations, wouldn't be caught dead watching it via this sort of presentation. (It's like a truly relevant and undeniable aspect of human nature being revealed as part of a wrestling promo on WWE Monday Night RAW , instead of showing up with the "proper" dressings on PBS.)

It's left to the open-minded and less self-conscious to appreciate how sharp Judge's observations are and to help find a larger audience than the cult following this film currently enjoys.

Luke Wilson portrays Pvt. Joe Bowers, an army clerk of average intelligence and slacker aspirations. The armed forces have an experiment in mind where Joe and a female recruit from the "private sector" (a hooker named Rita played by Maya Rudolph) are put into a hibernated state, to be revived the next year. The best laid plans go foul and instead the couple finds itself awakened in the year 2505, in a society where garbage has piled to the sky, a movie about farting has won the Best Picture award at the Oscars and the President of the United States is a former porn star and professional wrestler. Water is only used for toilets, as a Gatorade-type product is used for everything in it's place...including irrigation! (The corporation behind the beverage had no problem in meeting it's regulatory already rolled the FDA and FCC into it's operations by purchasing them. Other corps get zinged as well - Starbucks is depicted as a male entertainment chain where getting a latte is given a whole new meaning and Costco has outlets the size of a suburb, where you can acquire everything from canned foods to a law degree.)

At first declared an enemy of the state for being unregistered (and talking "faggy"), Joe's situation changes as his aptitude test declares him to be the smartest person on a planet of imbeciles and the one picked by the porn President to help solve his problems. Joe goes along with the idea but only as a cover as he tries to devise a plan to somehow get himself and Rita back to the 21st century but his decisions lead to some missteps that threaten his safety.

As is the case with the best of satirists, Judge is taking the audience to a faraway place to comment on what is happening around us in the here-and-now (A planet's inhabitants in the dire straits depicted in this movie would have been forced to use their brains to adapt or perish.) The director is harpooning our own world's lazy, complacent (or is that enthusiastic?) decent into twerking, texting and tweeting ourselves into a Neil Postman "amusing ourselves to death" scenario, while allowing anything and everything to be commodified, despite whoever loses out. It's not surprising big corp Twentieth Century Fox got cold feet on the movies release, considering how corporatism is assailed in it. (There was a two-picture deal that both Judge and Fox had to fulfill after the release of the cult hit Office Space.)

A few of the gags fall flat and, as I've tried to indicate, for some the comic tone would not be the preferred means to these ends. Still, the relatively few people who have actually seen this film have been generally enthusiastic about this timely reminder of where we are and where we seem to be headed. Idiocracy is one of those movies where you feel nervous about laughing but laugh you must. Do indeed check out this faraway future to see what's a comin' just down the road. It's scary.

I say this film tastes - ASSERTIVE.

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