Poor Mike Judge, creator of ‘Beavis and Butthead’ saw his delightfully static, scratchy animation style become the darling of the MTV mainstream and parodied endlessly in all manner of early 90s culture; culminating in the film ‘Beavis and Butthead Do America’. Then Judge’s second animated sitcom ‘King of the Hill’ proved to be even more successful, and since 1997 ran for 256 episodes before ending in September 2009. But, in 1999, Judge made his first foray into live-action cinema with the comedy ‘Office Space’ (co-starring the so-hot-right-now Jennifer Aniston), the film was mishandled by Fox, whispered out on limited release and was a box office misfire.
Fortunately the film was brilliant and managed to slowly, but surely, scrape together a cult following on video and DVD, eventually becoming one of Fox’s top 20 best-selling DVDs. So, Judge braved the storm once more and, in 2004 began production on his follow-up, titled ‘3001’ and later ‘The United States of Uhh-merica’.
Luke Wilson was perfectly cast as the most average American in the military, selected for his averageness and disposability to take part in a cryogenic experiment, alongside Rita, a prostitute (played by Maya Rudolph). Unfortunately the executive in charge of the experiment is indited for pimping and the project is closed down. During the ensuing years America becomes progressively stupider. The film’s opening montage is a funny and painfully-real case study of two American couples, well, one couple and one man and his over-active libido.
When Wilson’s Joe Bowers awakes to the future it is a nightmarish vision of consumerism gone awry, with the populous dressed in advertising covered pajamas, the old buildings barely standing and the new ones like plastic theme park shacks, people consume beer, drugs and gatorade with no conception of the use of water, except to flush, language is now a series of ‘likes’, grunts and derisive snorts, and the most popular TV show is called ‘Ow, My Balls!’. Despite being set 500 years in the future this feels all too almost-real. Bowers has to rely on an idiotic lawyer called Frito (Dax Shepherd) to help his evade capture and make his way towards a time machine that’ll send him and Rita back to the present day.
The brilliance in Judge’s film is that it is a dumb comedy made for dumb people, as if a historical re-enactment of the time, with a narrator who states the obvious with a slow, steady and patronising tone; but it is also a frighteningly dark satire and apocalyptic vision of a world consumed by lethargy, waste and stupidity. Come the film’s finale where Bowers finds himself being ‘rehabilitated’ (something between wrestling and a monster truck derby), a genuine sense of worry that the idiots will destroy their one – albeit average – hope for survival overcomes you. The baying mob of morons seems like an all too powerful voice and serves as a mirror for many aspects of contemporary society. As well as all this, the film is genuinely funny with Joe’s exploitation of the future’s low IQ and the extremely silly, satire producing genuine laughs.
Unfortunately Fox didn’t seem to take too kindly to Judge’s depiction of Fox News being fronted by shirtless beefcakes and buxom bimbos, or Starbucks giving out ‘handjobs’ and ‘gentlemen’s lattes’ and they kept pulling Judge’s budget down. In the end, fellow Texas resident Robert Rodriguez got his studio Troublemaker to help Judge out in completing the film’s final effects shots. But this wasn’t enough to save this production. In late-2006 Fox fulfilled their contractual obligations and released the movie into a grand total of 130 screens across the entireity of America (most blockbusters open on 4000, with the avergae release being about 1500), and no trailer or official poster ever really existed for this movie. Finally it was released unceremoniously onto DVD.
It still remains to be seen as to whether ‘Idiocracy’ can garner any of the cult-following that ‘Office Space’ did previously, but I encourage you to check it out if you’re looking for an entertaining and stupid beer and pizza movie that may also hit you on another, quite worrying, level! Judge’s luck still hasn’t improved with his next film, ‘Extract’ starring Jason Bateman, not making much of a splash in America (it’s due out here late-March).
© BRWC 2010.
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