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By Pete Vonder Haar | September 14, 2006

If you haven’t seen “Idiocracy,” the latest film from Mike Judge (the creator of “Beavis and Butthead,” “King of the Hill,” and “Office Space”), you’re not alone. Fox released the movie in a scant seven cities (three of them in Texas, none of them New York) with no advertising or fanfare, making the anemic marketing push behind “Office Space” seem almost “Armageddon”-like by comparison. Judge completed the movie in 2004, and has been dealing with the studio’s unwillingness to pony up for special effects or promote the finished product ever since. Given all this, it’s hardly surprising that Judge has hinted strongly at the possibility that “Idiocracy” might be his last studio film.

Taking all that into account, one might assume “Idiocracy” is a real stinker. It isn’t. It elicits so many laughs, in fact, that you have to wonder just what Judge did to piss off the suits at Fox so much that they would willingly torpedo one of the only genuinely hilarious movies to come out this year.

“Idiocracy” is the story of a remarkably unremarkable U.S. soldier named Joe (Luke Wilson) who wakes up after a flubbed cryogenics experiment in the year 2505 to discover an America so dumbed-down he’s the smartest man on earth. He’s joined by fellow guinea pig (and ex-prostitute) Rita (Maya Rudolph) and the two attempt to navigate through a land where the most popular TV show is called “Ow! My Balls!” and the President of the United States is an ex-wrestler and porn star (Terry Crews).

Judge’s hypothesis is that the rampant breeding of humanity’s slowest witted members will lead to an inevitable decline in the population’s median IQ, resulting in lawyers attending law school at Costco while anyone speaking with proper grammar and syntax is ridiculed as “faggy.” Some might find this a harsh assessment, though I personally think he’s being optimistic. America’s fascination with shots to the groin has been evident since the salad days of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” in the ‘80s, while the Wal-Marts of our great land have been choked with the spawn of mouth-breathing trailer park dwellers for decades. 500 years? Try 150, less if Britney squeezes out any more of K-Fed’s progeny. We already have a President who lacks the ability to speak in complete sentences and a populace largely incapable of choosing books unless some billionaire daytime TV talk show host tells them what to read. How much further down is there to go, really?

“Idiocracy” isn’t as accomplished a film as “Office Space,” which is – after all – one of the best comedies of the last 20 years. There are barren stretches, and scenes where things seem…unfinished; where Judge probably wanted to do more but wasn’t able. The look of the film is less big budget effects spectacular and more made-for-cable, though it’s unfair to blame Judge for this.

Wilson is at turns incredulous and exasperated, while Rudolph is also quite believable (and much hotter than I remember from “SNL”). At 84 minutes, brevity is indeed the soul of “Idiocracy’s” wit, as Judge wisely realizes there are only so many ways he can make fun of Starbucks (which has become a “full service” coffee house, if you get my meaning), Carl’s Jr., and characters named after consumer products (Joe’s lawyer and eventual sidekick “Frito,” for example). And if the guffaws don’t seem as plentiful as in Judge’s previous works, it isn’t due to poor quality but rather because each laugh is tempered with the unsettling realization that his vision of mankind’s future might not be too far off the mark.

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  1. TT says:

    A great movie. Possibly one of the best comedies in the last 20 years for me.

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