2006, R, 84 min. Directed by Mike Judge. Starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Alan Crews, Sara Rue, David Herman, Brad "Scarface" Jordan.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 8, 2006
Ironically, Judge's latest film, which has been shelved since its completion two years ago and now dumped by Twentieth Century Fox at the very end of the summer, with no advance word, is the recipient of the kind of asinine treatment that is commonplace in the dystopic future imagined in Idiocracy. Judge's future exists 500 years from now and postulates a dumbed-down world of mediocrity in which stupidity and sloth are the dominant human traits and anyone who uses sentences instead of monosyllabic grunts to communicate is considered "faggy." It's as if Beavis and Butt-head have come to rule America. But no, in Idiocracy the president of the United States is a former smackdown champ (Crews), who rules over a country that has grown so stupid as to know nothing about growing crops or dealing with garbage. Judge has always had an impeccable ear for satirizing modern American stupidity, be it with the Beavis and Butt-head cartoons, Office Space, or King of the Hill. The problem with Idiocracy, more than with Office Space (which only achieved cult popularity in video release), is that the gags are often better than the scenes that contain them. The humor is delicious from the get-go as an offscreen narrator (Earl Mann) relates the tale of how humanity bred itself into stupidity and how an Army hibernation experiment is forgotten when the base is decommissioned, leaving Joe (Wilson) and Rita (Rudolph) to wake up 500 years in the future to discover they are now the smartest people on Earth. Along the way, the film takes shots at a slew of products and brands, among them Fuddruckers, Starbucks, Carl's Jr., Costco, and Fox News (with a bold bite-the-hand-that-feeds-'em swagger). Perhaps some of this helps explain the reasons for the film's denigrating release. It is certainly no less competent than any number of artless works we've seen in theatres of late. And it is certainly more conceptually inspired than most. It has a moral too: Stay in school and read books, return to the kind of stories in which you at least knew who was farting, and moreover cared. The delivery in Idiocracy is frequently flat, but its vision is dead-on.