15 January 2007


Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead (and the voice of Beavis), offers up a dire prediction: at the current rate, by 2505 the stupid shall have inherited the earth. That’s the premise of his new comedy, anyway, in which Joe (Luke Wilson), the averagest man alive in 2005, finds himself five hundred years in the future when an army experiment goes awry. Because of unchecked breeding amongst the dim-witted, Joe now finds himself – by far – to be the smartest man alive, and consequently he’s appointed Secretary of the Interior.

I mean, these people are really stupid, but Idiocracy’s best joke is the title itself, as much of the film’s target audience won’t be able to pronounce it. (Believe me, I worked in a video store for years, and there’s going to be a lot of awkward young men asking for Idiot Crazy and other comical variations.) It’s a mean-spirited film of the Stardust Memories variety, though subtler and more subversive perhaps, as it attacks the very knuckleheads paying to see it. Judge, with co-writer Etan Cohen, are laughing at Dax Shepherd’s character when he is introduced cachinnating at a television program titled, Ow! My Balls!, in which a protagonist has his testicles relentlessly pounded. Much of the audience is bound to be laughing with him.

Despite some memorable scenes, such as Wilson's visit to the cinema to see the future's biggest blockbuster Ass, a continuous ninety minute shot of an individual's posterior, Idiocracy's central premise, that America is on the path to self-destruction by celebrating its lack of intellectual curiosity (to put it nicely), is consistently undermined by over-appealing to the audience's baser comedic desires. The message gets so watered-down it starts to disappear. While subversive media like Borat and South Park sneak a clever mixture of the low-brow and the satirically critical into the mainstream, Idiocracy, which incidentally probably would've functioned much better as a short film or television series (at only seventy-nine minutes, it still feels too long), tries so hard to get the idiots in the door it almost forgets that it's trying to make a point. I find it difficult to believe that anyone but the choir will understand the sermon, so why bother making it so profane and scatalogical? To scare off the people who may appreciate it, and attract those who probably won't?

As the credits roll, I'd expect the majority of the audience to snicker and think, "Dax is right, Luke Wilson does talk faggy," rather than be inspired to read a book. If I'm coming across as a bit supercilious, I'm only following Judge's lead; his dystopic future feels repugnantly familiar, and I only wish he'd gone further. As it stands, he's got the nail, he has a hammer, but he doesn't put the two together.

Directed by: Mike Judge
Written by: Mike Judge & Etan Cohen

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