Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Writer/director Mike Judge has transcribed every phone call made by a jerk with a walkie talkie cell phone and encapsulated the crudeness of 21st century life in the cautionary tale, IDIOCRACY. Released in virtual secrecy over Labor Day weekend 2006, Luke Wilson portrays soldier Joe Bauers, forgotten (like the film) survivor of a military experiment in suspended animation. The most average man in the Army awakens after 500 years to a world where is the smartest man in the world, because the population has regressed in intelligence. His country calls on him to lead the nation out of the garbage-filled, dust bowl that America has become.

Maya Rudolph (Rita) is along for the ride as a prostitute, who is also part of the experiment gone wrong. She makes her way very well in the new world.

Terry Alan Crews, better known as the Dad in TV's EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS, plays President Camacho, a retired wrestler. No mention is made if he is the first African-American person to hold the office. Crews small-screen talent as a wise father translates to big-screen charisma. He plays an idiot with gravitas. He's in over his head but knows enough to call in the smartest man in the country to help.

This movie has many memorable scenes, which for me is a sign of good story telling. If I'm ever held prisoner in one of Jeb Bush's concentration camps in the Michigan (avenge me, boy!) I could replay most of this movie from my memory. I hate to give away the gags but they are mostly visual. You could watch with the sound off and get most of the jokes.

I'm issuing a rental fee guarantee. If this movie doesn't stick in your head after making you laugh I will send you a free Blockbuster rental coupon upon proof that you kept a straight face throughout.

Arthur Herzog's novel IQ 83 has a similar dystopian conceit of mass low-intelligence in America, except it's caused by a virus. Judge's vision is more plausible because we live in the first stage of it. As long as people don't believe it matters who is the president, or stop educating themselves, or just care about what happens from their couch to their Office Space, we are lurching to disaster.

Special mention to Dax Shepard as Frito, Joe's lawyer. Every time I thought he was about to learn or grow from being around Joe, Judge pulls back the reins and he's still stupid, maintaining a Peter Sellers BEING THERE-like consistency in tone, especially in the Beavis and Butthead-like scene near the end where Frito teams up with another moron to help Joe when he's in mortal danger. We're so conditioned to a sitcom moment-of-shite, that it was refreshing to take another tack and stay dumb. Even the ending is only slimly hopeful in that area.

Is it too obvious to point out that Mike Judge, like Don Imus begetting Howard Stern, is a forefather of today's dumb culture by conceiving Beavis and Butthead?

I wonder where Judge goes from here? Mamet writes/directs PG now and then, so Judge could follow that and make general interest movies and profane satire. He once said he didn't want to be known as the man who could not stop making Beavis and Butthead. Mission accomplished, but it's still his obit lede unless he tops it. Or IDIOCRACY is (re)discovered on television. Maybe Comedy Central can throw it a lifeline and run it overnight? It would make a great 4th of July special. Run it like the History Channel does and follow with Colbert doing analysis.


BayonneMike said...

Let's not forget Judge is also responsible the classic sleeper, Office Space, possible inspiration for the equally great TV series The Office (both UK and US versions). That's a pretty fine legacy.

Brian said...

I agree, but unless obit writers get hip, it'll still be B&B clips that will lead off his tribute on Access Hollywood.

Somewhere in there I made a subtle allusion to OFFICE SPACE, a classic comedy. A couple of players from OFFICE also show up in IDIOCRACY. David Herman ("Michael Bolton" from OFFICE) is the Sec'y. of State and Stephen Root ("Milton Waddams"--I could set this building on fire) is the judge. If you love comedy and the TV show NEWSRADIO, you'd call Root's appearance a cameo. Otherwise, it's a small part, but he's very funny in it.