Saturday, September 17, 2011

DVD Report: "Idiocracy" (The Movie Hollywood Doesn't Want You To See)

[post 193]

In case you haven't noticed, I think clowns and physical comedy are like totally RELEVANT and SIGNIFICANT in our modern world because we're all still pretty dumb at least part of the time, though we're less likely to admit it, and human error is still titanically inevitable. Which is what clowns have been telling us for several millennia, and the only good news is that we're still able to laugh about it. So if you need to justify your clown existence to an annoying "friend" or to that condescending uncle, read and steal these quasi-intellectual arguments I wrote about here and here

All of which brings me to the futuristic satire Idiocracy (2006), which is more about the overall dumbing down of America than it is about human error afflicting even the most intelligent minds... but close enough. And funny.

I was urged to watch the movie by New York City's own intellectual-in-residence, bon vivant, and man about town — of course I'm talking about Paul Persoff — who enticed me with the following opening scene, which is indeed quite brilliant:

BTW, damn good makeup and acting job on the aging, eh?

Directed by Mike Judge (Office Space; Beavis & Butthead, The Animation Show), Idiocracy sends two statistically average Americans five hundred years into the future, where they discover they're the smartest people on the planet. Now I'm not all that into science fiction, but I found this satirical premise deliciously pertinent to Life As We Live It. It can be hard to translate the resulting gags into a full-length movie, and the laughs are not as rapid-fire or as hardy as in Borat, another 2006 comedy with a similar theme, but the movie worked for me on about a four stars out of five level. Some might find it exaggerated. My reaction was that it won't take five hundred years to reach the dystopia portrayed in Idiocracy. More like fifty.

One of the many troubling aspects is its depiction of the entertainment of the future, which  consists of gross jokes and stupid people watching stupider people suffer. The top movie is Asses: ninety minutes of frequently flatulent butts. And here's the top tv show, Ow, My Balls!

Much more troubling was the shabby treatment the movie received from its distributors. What Variety labeled "a rare piece of rebellious political spoofery from a major studio" may in fact have been too hot for the studios to handle. As Ann Homaday wrote in the Washington Post:

"When Mike Judge's highly anticipated futuristic satire Idiocracy opened and promptly closed in a few cities last fall (it never played Washington), the blogosphere lit up. Did Twentieth Century Fox, the film's distributor, intentionally dump the movie?...  Put simply, did Fox do to Idiocracy what it had done to Judge's 1999 comedy Office Space, and was the new movie eligible for similar cult status? We may never know precisely who did what to whom and why (although a hilarious sendup of Fox News in the movie may not have helped)." 

Check it out yourself on DVD (available on NetFlix). Some links:

The Movie Hollywood Doesn't Want You To See, a good review of the movie from the online magazine, Slate
Idicocracy on Rotten Tomatoes, where it garners 73% from the critics but only 57% from the general audience
Mike Judge on Wikipedia
A YouTube video, one of many, about how dumb most Americans are.
• A Maureen Dowd column about stupidity in American politics.

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