With modern society' tendency for appealing to the lowest common denominator, the time is certainly ripe for a satire along the lines of Mike Judge' Idiocracy. It' just a shame that more people won't get a chance to see it.
The film, which wraps a dystopian-future sci-fi concept into an often hilarious comedy, treads a rich middle ground between two of Judge' earlier projects, the corporate send-up Office Space and MTV' "Beavis and Butthead." Idiocracy follows the extraordinarily ordinary Private Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson, perhaps Hollywood' ideal average schlub), who wakes up 500 years in the future after taking part in the US Army' Human Hibernation Project, only to discover that he' officially the smartest man in the world. Unlike most cinematic visions of the future, instead of getting cleaner and more civilized, humanity has devolved into a bunch of hillbilly-gangsta' morons.
The idea of a future full of idiots is long overdue, and Judge' film explains the dumbing down of our culture through both hilarious narration and accompanying visual gags. Given the idiotic course that modern culture seems to be taking and the fact that we've evolved beyond natural selection, Judge suggests that it' only a matter of time before such conventions as proper grammar, reading and writing are derided for being "faggy" and the meek-brained inherit the earth.
The film gets off to a brilliant start, with Judge setting up his premise and showing how and why the dumb wind up populating the entire world. When Wilson and co-hibernator Maya Rudolph (who plays a modern-day prostitute hired to go along with the Army' hibernation project and who, for once, doesn't act as a sort of comedy atom bomb, killing all laughs for miles around) awaken, the disdain with which the protagonists are viewed for being remotely intelligent contrasts well with the utter, well, idiocy of the world in the year 2505.
While most of the gags work, the film sometimes get bogged down in the plot, which twists and turns, offers redemption for the relative supra-genius Wilson and takes a swipe at a love story between the last two people on earth to function as sentient beings rather than id-driven infants. While it works as a whole, Idiocracy lags when it gets away from its explicit purpose of satirizing our consumer culture. The premise that we're all getting stupider as society continues to appeal to our basest instincts by glorifying bigger, faster and louder over anything involving thought is a rich one, and probably could have carried the entire film.
However, there are more than enough gags that stick to drown out the rare bit that doesn't. The top show in the world is titled Ow! My balls! and manages to be cleverly dumb in the vein of an inspired Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Whether you're laughing at the content or at the fact that citizens of the future actually consider the show to be worth watching, it' damn funny.
Given that the film is both funnier and more clever than your average Hollywood fare, one can't help but wonder why 20th Century Fox is more or less hiding it from American film audiences. Why did it get dumped into a small-scale, end of summer release when studios typically toss their redheaded stepchildren into theatres? Why only in a few American cities? Why no New York or Los Angeles releases? Why no critics' screenings? It' entirely possible that Fox execs didn't see the comedic goldmine that they had in their metaphorical pockets, missing the satire entirely and just seeing a movie about a bunch of dumb people.
It' also possible that those execs saw the satire but felt the audience might not, given that the film' entire purpose is to point out just how unintelligent humanity is becoming as a whole. When the public will support dozens of reality shows and glorified talent shows rule the airwaves while truly clever shows like Arrested Development get the axe, it would be hard to blame them for thinking America might miss the joke. But surely America deserved a chance to choose whether or not to see it.
Another possibility, albeit one that' far less likely, is that Fox is afraid of alienating viewers. It takes cojones to hold a mirror up to society and say, "This is what you watch, what you eat, how you sound and who you elect (in this case, an actor/wrestler for president), and isn't it all just so dumb?" If that were a concern, however, there' little chance the project would have been green lit in the first place.
The most likely scenario, of course, is that Fox is deathly afraid of alienating potential sponsors by releasing a film in which Starbucks offers hand jobs and Carl' Jr. drugs people who can't afford to pay for their super-duper-sized orders. Given the millions of dollars passed back and forth through product placement these days, that seems the most logical answer.
That corporate interests could (hypothetically, of course) come so close to completely scuttling a smart satire like Idiocracy serves as another sad commentary on our times as well as a reminder of how important the film really is. But then again, given box office receipts for far less worthy films, it' possible that normally, we just get the movies we deserve.
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