Idiocracy review by Mike Long

I've written before about how the ending can be the most important part of a film. A great ending can trick the viewer into remembering a mediocre (or even bad) movie as being better than it actually was. In contrast, a weak ending can hurt a movie which has a promising opening. I'm a big fan of the first 2/3 of Mike Judge's Office Space, but I feel that the movie's finale simply doesn't work. Now, seven years later, Judge is back with his second feature film, Idiocracy, and this time I was hoping that he could hold things together through to the end. Unfortunately, it feels as if Judge never had control of this movie.

As Idiocracy opens, we learn that evolution takes a different turn in the 21st Century. Natural selection began to favorite those who reproduced the most as opposed to the most intelligent. As those with higher IQs gave careful consideration as to whether or not they should have children, the more challenged members of society continued to have one baby after another. Thus, intelligence stopped being a dominant trait in humans.

The story then introduces us to Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson), an Army librarian who likes that his job doesn't entail much work. Due to the fact that Joe is average in every way, he's been chosen as a test subject for the "Human Hibernation Project" -- a program whereby the military can freeze its best and brightest and revive them when they are most needed. Along with Joe, a prostitute named Rita (Maya Rudolph) is also a guinea pig in the experiment. (And because he's not the most worldly guy, Joe thinks that Rita is an artist.) Joe and Rita and placed in their hibernation chambers with expectation of being awakened in one year. However, the project loses it's funding and the chambers are sealed inside of the lab, where they lie undisturbed until the year 2450.

Joe emerges from his sleep scared and confused, as nothing looks the same and despite the fact that they are speaking English, no one understands what Joe is saying. Meanwhile, Rita awakes unphased by the changes in society, as she immediately begins hooking again. After visiting a hospital and having a brush with the law (where he meets a lawyer named Frito (Dax Shepard), Joe finally grasps that he's in the future and that everyone is really stupid. Joe is given an IQ test, and then he's taken to meet President Camacho (Terry Crews), as it's been learned that Joe is the smartest man in the world. Because of this, he's asked to solve all of society's problems. Can an average Joe save the world?

When I first read about Idiocracy, my first thought was that it sounded a lot like Futurama, except that in this case, the average guy would be smarter than everyone, not dumber. But, I felt that Mike Judge could probably handle the material. And the film gets off to a great start. The opening segment, in which we learn that dumb people just keep on having babies, is at the same time incredibly scary (because it's so true) and also very funny. But, after that the movie simply goes downhill. Judge never seems to have a clear idea of which story he wants to tell here. For the most part, the movie is about Joe and his attempts to cope with the very confusing situation which he is in. But, Judge also wants to be sure that we see all of the examples of how backwards the citizens of the future are. And he does this by hitting us over the head with the jokes, which include every possible surface bearing a corporate logo and the fact that everyone calls Joe a "fag" because of the words which he uses.

This wouldn't be a problem if the material was funny, but on the whole, it isn't. The central idea is interesting and some of the weird things that we see in the future are humorous, but most of the jokes fall very flat, and not just because of the repetition. It's incredibly ironic that the man who brought us Beavis and Butt-Head would make a movie in which the media has made people dumber. But, I'm sure that Judge wants all of us to be in on that joke. The problem is that Idiocracy is never clever and devolves into a series of sophomoric jokes. So, the man who created one of the most crass TV shows of all time makes a movie in which society has grown dumber thanks in part to low-brow media and fills it with jokes aimed at the lowest common denominator? I'm going to apply for a grant in order to study the ironic circles in this film.

The other disappointing thing about Idiocracy is how the cast is wasted. Luke Wilson is perfect casting at the "Average Joe", but since the material isn't very funny, he doesn't have much to work with. I'm no fan of Maya Rudolph, but she's not that annoying here, but neither is she funny. And the manic Terry Crews is a major disappointment as the President who just yells non-sensical things and is never funny. And to be honest, I'm not sure if Dax Shepard's character was supposed to be funny.

In case you're unaware of it's history, the film was shot in 2004, but then shelved by Fox, who eventually released it into 130 theaters in September 2006, where it grossed a little under $500,000. Many were confused and even outraged by this strategy, but after seeing the film, I understand why. Idiocracy is a film which is best forgotten. As I watched the film, I really wanted to like it, but it never made me laugh out loud, and after an hour, it became an ordeal to watch. Be smart and rent this one.

Idiocracy makes a fool of itself on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The films bright color palette looks very good on this DVD, as the pastel colors stand out against the often dark backgrounds. The image is sharp and clear, with only a minor amount of grain. But, I did note some shimmering and video noise at times. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The in-movie music sounds very good, and the futuristic crowd scenes offer a nice mixture of surround sound effects and some bass response.

The only extra on the Idiocracy are five DELETED SCENES, which don't offer anything new.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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