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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Idiocracy
Idiocracy
Fox // R // January 2, 2007
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Brian Orndorf | posted December 26, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM

After the rabid successes of "Beavis and Butt-head," "King of the Hill," and the cult supremacy of "Office Space," one would think that 20th Century Fox could've extended some level of trust to writer/director Mike Judge when it came to his latest film, "Idiocracy."

What's finally being shown to audiences after two years sitting on a shelf gathering dust is a Frankenstein's Monster of a film, pieced together by a studio looking to pull off cinema's greatest single act of irony: they've dumbed down a film about dumbing down.

Private Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) is volunteered by his commanding officers to take part in an experimental hibernation program that will put him to sleep for one year. Sent under with a prostitute (Maya Rudolph), the program is eventually cut short, with Joe's tube lost for 500 years. When a garbage avalanche ends his centuries-long slumber, Joe awakens to find the year 2505 and a whole world evolved into idiots. Branded the smartest person alive by the professional wrestler/porn star president (Terry Crews), Joe is given the task of saving America from starvation, but all he really wants is to get back to 2005.

In many ways, "Idiocracy" is similar to the hack job that Paramount pulled on Louis CK's "Pootie Tang." Judge's film is something near a complete mess, with the opening 20 minutes pushed and pulled like taffy to cover what feels like 45 minutes of footage. Slapped with narration that hand-holds the viewer through storylines and important scenes we're not allowed to see, the opening act of the film is a jarring rush of settings and characters that make little sense and lends the film a sloppy quality I refuse to believe was Judge's intention.

Thankfully, Judge's sense of humor does escape through Fox's sweaty fingers. When you boil the picture down to the essentials, it's uproarious in primitive slapstick ways and as a potent bitchslap of a social commentary. Opening with the frightening concept that America's future is not in the hands of the most intelligent, but the most fertile and irresponsible (aka the poor), Judge's script begins to claw away at not only America's corporate sponsorship culture (some get paid to end every sentence with "Brought to you by Carl's Jr."), but their entertainment tastes as well. The number one show on television? "Ow! My Balls!" Favorite channel? The Masturbation Network. The top-grossing film of all time? "Ass." Just 90 minutes of a man's ass, with an occasional fart escaping.

Judge has it out especially for Gatorade (called "Brawndo" here), using the general uselessness of sport drinks to emphasize the deceptive nature of predatory corporations, and the gullibility of consumers who will believe anything they read. Even electrolytes.

This is a world where citizens are named Frito and Beef Supreme, Starbucks is a place that only sells handjobs, Fuddruckers is considered the Mona Lisa of trash dining, and if a subject doesn't pertain to sex or farting, nobody wants to discuss it.

"Idiocracy" eventually heads over to the political realm, turning a presidential address into a wrestling main event, and opening up the idea of capital punishment as gladiatorial fight to the death with tricked out cars, scored by a whole section of head-banging guitar stoners.

As a satire, "Idiocracy" is a cold steel blade to the gut. Judge relishes his opportunity to expose our insatiable need for stupidity, and he takes that to the most grandiose possible conclusion for maximum effect. Still, the film remains a thoroughly hilarious affair, due mostly to the cast's glee in dragging their knuckles for a change and Judge's satirical targets, some of which might hit too close to home for many viewers.

Even if the film contains the single biggest laugh I've had this year at the movies (imagine the Washington Monument pool turned into a jet-ski paradise), "Idiocracy" is a terribly muddled affair. The heart of the film appears to have been ripped out in the process of streamlining the feature for mass consumption. While Judge's touch remains interwoven into the piece, the finished product doesn't move the way we've come to expect from this director.

The picture has some potent ideas on dysgenics and where humanity is headed, and how much citizens are complacent when their lives are bought and sold; ideas that felt like they were once properly layered into a feature film. Not anymore with this version of "Idiocracy." I don't care how much Judge might've screwed up originally, if cinematic history tells us anything, it's best to leave this talent alone

THE DVD

Audio:

"Idiocracy" is present in Dolby Digital 5.1, and makes good, dimensional use of futuristic sound effects. Of course, a majority of them are fart sounds, but you get the point. Dialogue and music are presented crisp and clean.

Visual:

Given an anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer, "Idiocracy" feels pretty cozy at home, where Judge's intimate satiric scale can be best appreciated. Image is clean with bold color reproduction. Larger home theater screens might reveal the low-tech limitations of the scrapped together special effects more than smaller sets.

Extras:

The only supplement served up for this DVD release is set of deleted scenes, totaling less than four minutes of screentime. All are insignificant snippets, but two of them do showcase the woman in Joe's life before he goes into hibernation. Another shows us the National Fart Museum, where kids of all ages can watch history cut the cheese.

Sadly, Mike Judge is nowhere to be found on any of this disc.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I'm starting to sense "Idiocracy" might be the new "Superman II." Perhaps one day audiences will be treated to Mike Judge's full, unobstructed version of this ambitious satire, but for now, all we have is this DVD. After years of thinking we wouldn't even get this far, it's wonderful to finally get a chance to see what Judge had up his sleeve, and to watch what Fox was so fearful of releasing. Keep your expectations low, and there's an often hilarious, sly little feature to be found in here somewhere.


For further online adventure, please visit brianorndorf.com
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