One of my favorite movies of all time is Office Space from Mike Judge. I’ve never worked in an office myself, but the quotidian farce is perfect for any work place, especially any that is as hated as the office. The man behind such genius comedy was in my mind a God for having crafted it. Overlooking King of the Hill, which I never fully supported, or his first work in Beavis and Butthead, something that I watched but was hard pressed to find the same level of comedy in, I always thought Judge should make a new film, something as scathing and witty as Office Space was and still is. It’s been 7 years, but he finally did and I was incredibly excited by the prospect. The concept is simple and if it wasn’t his work, I would have written it off as childish slush from the start. But in his hands I thought that Idiocracy stood a chance of being something damn funny.
The premise is simple, very simple in fact. Fittingly simple. An average Joe (quite literally in fact) played by Luke Wilson working as an Army Librarian is tapped for an experiment in human hibernation along with a prostitute played indelibly by Maya Rudolph, whose work on SNL has yet to vindicate her appearance in actual film. Because of the predictable incompetence of the Army, our hibernatees are left in their pods for 500 years, to wake up and find that the world has changed into a haven for stupidity, where natural selection has reversed and stupidity is rewarded evolutionarily due to mass breeding by the uneducated.
The film was released in September but somehow found its way to the blacklist and received a very limited release with no advertising. Now, with the DVD release the studio has finally decided to put some money into the advertising , which you may have noticed in a recent onslaught of commercials advertising its release.
The film itself, while probably not deserving of such a substantial snub, also isn’t anything special. As much as I wanted to fall in love with it, I could not simply because it was not as great as it could have been. The beginning of the film is probably its strongest part, careening through a terse, hilarious overview of what destroyed the human race. The introduction to the future America is equally as funny, showing how dumb our world can get when things like proper speech and sexual control are forgotten. It’s a biting satire that rips into the culture of laziness and stupidity that America has created and is in the process of slow and steady decline into.
However, after a while the film finds itself miring into that territory itself, pandering to its own childish jokes and poorly constructed plot. The film is quick and the exposition lengthy, leaving a relatively short time for the actual plot to unfold and while it does, Judge jumps too quickly between what in his head were surely great sketches. Some of them are, but some equally overreach. The transformation of Joe into a world power is done with almost no preposition, though his interaction with the Idiocracy itself is at times quite funny. The frustration the viewer feels at their stupidity is decently moderated with the pace of the film, but at the same time that pace forces a weak plot to its endpoint all the quicker.
The concept of Idiocracy is incredibly simple and because of this Judge is left with as much space as he wants to work. Luke Wilson is great for the role, deadpanning his way through the idiocy that surrounds him. Maya Rudolph however is a drag on the entire plot, an unnecessary cliché detracting from every scene she’s in, while Dax Shepard manages the role of bumbling idiot as well as only he can. When Judge’s ideas are at the reins the film moves along smoothly, inducing laughs and even making the viewer think a little bit. Unfortunately, when he passes those reins over to the characters and their ridiculous story, the sludge comes up around the rudders and you begin to wonder how much the film is satirizing this nation’s stupidity when it begins to pander to it on the same level.