Friday, September 22, 2006

It's Got Electrolytes!

I think I may have just seen the best movie of the year. As a Dork I’m partial to proclamations of that sort, but seriously, Idiocracy was amazing. I’ve just never seen something so funny and so good. This definitely isn’t good/funny in the same way that something like Annie Hall is good/funny, it’s good/funny (more funny/good) in a way I haven’t seen since the Golden Age of The Simpsons. I was reminded of Bill Hicks’ joke about redneck aliens, to paraphrase, “We traveled billions of light-years, we just wanna sit back and whittle some.” It’s obvious that the primary function of this film is to make you laugh, but much like the comedy of Bill Hicks you get this sense that there’s something else going on.

Everyone always has this grand vision of the future being full of hyper-intelligent meta-humans. Everything is silver and glowing and things float all over the place. Like Hicks’ comment above, Idiocracy asks you re-imagine the fundamental concepts of Science Fiction, where Hicks asks you to imagine Aliens as being closer to Rednecks, Judge asks you to imagine the stupidest possible future. There’s no flying cars or endless sea of towering, glimmering skyscrapers, but there is a Costco the size of Rhode Island and the president is a former champion wrestler (a sly Jesse Ventura reference I suppose, but executed much better when the president addresses “The House of Representin’” preceded by theme music and pyrotechnics.)

The whole plot is kind of secondary to what the movie is actually about. We’re launched into this future when Joe (Luke Wilson) and Rita (Maya Rudolph) get frozen as part of a super-secret Government human hibernation program. They’re only supposed to be in there for a year, but due to circumstances out of their control, they are left there for 500 years. The traditional moving-forward-in-time montage is given a kick in the pants when we see a Fuddruckers get built, torn down and replaced by a series of similarly named restaurants until we finally get to “Buttfuckers” right around the time Joe wakes up (There’s a brilliant scene of Joe dumbfoundedly staring at a “Buttfuckers” while some kids birthday party is going on inside).

Like I said, the whole how-we-got-there doesn’t matter. This movie could’ve easily become a mockumentary, it’s already got insightful narration. I do like that they picked Luke Wilson, he’s really good at playing it straight when everyone else around him are being goofballs. Joe’s not all that offended by the world of the future, just a little frustrated because he can’t explain himself. No one will listen to him, primarily because he “talks like a fag.” (i.e. using big words.) When he tries to tell people that they have to uses water to grow crops and not Brawndo, a Gatorade-like drink that completely replaced water except in the place of toilets, he has to convince them that he can talk to plants and that the plants told him they want water. (“But Brawndo has everything a plant needs, it’s got electrolytes!”) I also loved Dax Shepherd who plays Joe’s lawyer, Frito (most of the characters are named after products). I really had no idea that Dax Shepherd could act, but then again, judging by his past roles, this one may have been perfect for him.

The humor in the movie is pretty dumb, like almost Tommy Boy-style, but that’s where the movie reveals itself to be a lot more that it’s outward appearance. Sure there are plenty of fart jokes and dudes getting kicked in the balls (“Ow, My Balls!” is a popular TV show in the future) but the fact that these are so common place is what makes the humor in the movie so smart. It’s not that people go out of their way to see crude humor and overt sexuality; life in 2505 is crude humor and overt sexuality: you can go to Starbucks for a handjob and read “U.S. News & Naked Ladies”. Vending machines swear at you and going to the hospital has become more like going McDonalds. Everything is blended so insouciantly into the fabric of society that it’s almost unrecognizable as trying to be funny. In doing so a world is created that is fairly believable (though one could obviously nitpick the shit out of this movie).

This is not only where the true genius of Idiocracy actually lies, but I suspect it is the same reason why Fox pulled it from wide distribution. I can imagine that half the audience that Fox would market this to would laugh along with the movie and not at it, like it should be. Am I saying that most of the people that would probably go see this movie are no better than the people this movie makes fun of? Yeah, I’m saying that. The movie begins with a look at a high-I.Q.-ed couple thinking about having kids. Then it cuts to a hillbilly who can’t remember which girl he got pregnant. It cuts between these people, going from the smart people still trying to find the time to have kids, to the hillbilly with 8 kids, whose kids are now having kids. I can imagine one of the hillbilly’s children’s children going to see this movie and coming home still laughing at the farts, but not understanding why the farts were there in the first place. I’m not saying that every comedy has to have farts that are existential. It’s just that this film does.

When I think about the world that this movie creates and proceeds to make fun of, I get kind of depressed. It’s not hard to think that the ultra-dumbed down society that this movie creates could eventually be a reality. Is Mike Judge attempting to make a case for eugenics? No I don’t think so. Though halting a few people’s reproductive capabilities wouldn’t be bad idea, I think he’s trying to say something else. There was an Onion article just after 9/11 with a headline saying something along the lines of “Americans Long To Care About Stupid Shit Again”. In today’s world of complete lies being shilled as justification for war, the advocation of torture by our own President and our elections becoming a complete mockery, it’s getting really hard not to give a shit anymore.

I’m not going to claim to be in the running for White House correspondent’s job, but even I give a shit now. Up until 9/11, the majority of Americans had no idea that there were people out there that actually hated us. Idiocracy isn’t trying to preach at you, it’s just reminding you that giving a shit isn’t “gay” and that eating Doritos and watching MTV all day might not be the best thing to be doing with your life. The movie isn’t telling everyone to go join Green Peace or help PETA convince another celebrity to get naked, it’s just saying that being aware of the world you live in isn’t a bad idea.

In that sense I think the execution of Idiocracy was much better than that of Office Space, but I think they share similar concepts. Both are about taking charge of you’re life and your destiny and taking responsibility for your actions. But Idiocracy has a much grander scope, it isn’t as singular as Office Space. If Idiocracy gets a wide release or hopefully a DVD release at least, I can see it going beyond the cult status of Office Space. I don’t want to speak too loftily of this movie, but I really liked it, and I think that there are thousands of people out there who will think the same thing I am.

There’s a really good line that’s kind of used as the theme of the movie, that I think has some importance today, “You either lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Joe chooses to get out of the way at the beginning of the film, and being of Hollywood, it of course has the requisite happy ending where Joe finally decides to lead. I’m not saying that we should all run for president or governor, but I definitely think the least of what we can do as Uh-mericans is to give a shit about ourselves, our nation, and everyone else.