Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Review by Sombrero Grande

George Orwell had 1984; Aldous Huxley had Brave New World; and now, the “brains” behind Beavis and Butthead, Mike Judge, has his own artistic vision of a future distopia with Idiocracy.

The film’s setup is pretty damn clever (and easily the best aspect of the whole endeavor). Judge, a man once accused of single-handedly “dumbing down” America with his MTV cartoons, theorizes that the future will not be populated by increasingly brighter and more active human beings, but instead Natural Selection will be turned upside down as only the stupidest and laziest survive to procreate again and again. As more and more high-I.Q.’d folks wait longer to have children, if any, trailer trash clods fertilize often and sow their seeds freely, ensuring that the future is overrun with the offspring of cheating husbands and loose women either too dumb or lazy to bother with annoying, meddlesome birth control.

In Idiocracy, Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) is a remarkably average, well, Joe. The U.S. military picks him because of his resounding averageness to serve as a test subject for human cryogenic freezing. Joe was only supposed to remain frozen for a year, but after a scandal forces the closure and abandonment of the military base housing him, it isn’t until a great garbage avalanche in the year 2505 that Joe finally is released from his icy chamber.

The world Joe awakes to is a world built and run entirely by complete and utter morons, leaving Joe by far the smartest man in the world. These early scenes where Joe and the audience discover just how stupid mankind has become are the funniest moments the film has to offer. Skyscrapers on the verge of collapse are roped together to prevent them from toppling over. Adorning the clothing people wear are brand names repeated to create patterns. A man sits in the waiting room at the St. God’s Memorial Hospital E.R., helplessly trapped in his own shirt. Couch potatoes lounge on plush toilet recliners to watch as the Violence Channel proudly presents its most popular program: “Ow! My Balls!”

Unfortunately, the movie itself seems to get dumber as it marches forward. The unfolding plotline with Joe being appointed to the President’s cabinet and trying to acquire a pardon seems clumsily cobbled together. The film’s narration becomes overbearing and insulting when it describes what’s visually happening on screen as if trying to inform the characters in the film itself of what’s happening. There’s a romantic subplot that pops up abruptly and really goes nowhere fast. Sets and situations get bigger, crazier and dumber (especially in the “Rehabilitation” sequence near the end) to the point where I can’t help but think that this movie would have made more sense being a cartoon.

Coming after Judge’s surprise hit Office Space, a film that has forever earned a special place in the hearts of cubicle-dwellers everywhere, the world eagerly awaited his next feature. Unfortunately Idiocracy is a high concept, uneven next film, likely to disappoint any huge fans of Judge’s previous movie that are hoping for more of the same.

All in all, Idiocracy isn’t a bad film. It’s got some funny ideas and moments, but looses steam as the movie realizes it can’t just get by as a series of clever gags and has to quickly whip up a plot. It’s a far cry from the hilarity of Office Space, but is probably worth a look if you’ve got nothing better to do...at least until the next episode of “Ow! My Balls!” comes on, that is.


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