Idiocracy (2006)

(On DVD, February 2007) The danger in making a film criticizing idiocy is that the effort itself may feel, well, pretty idiotic itself. Mike Judge’s first film since the wonderful Office Space doesn’t entirely avoid the charge: Nominally about a normal contemporary man waking up in a future where the average IQ has plunged downward, Idiocracy isn’t as smart as it should be. The first few minutes aren’t too bad, as they graphically explain how dumber people have more children than smarter ones. (Yes, unacknowledged echoes of “The Marching Morons”) But once it’s in the future, Idiocracy lets itself go in raunchy bad language, easy caricatures and cheap plot mechanics. The low budget doesn’t help, but neither does the sub-standard script and the pandering attempt to present an intellectual argument without annoying the none-too-smart people who could see the film. Idiocracy plays a risky game: how do you criticize stupidity without looking like an arrogant fop? Alas, it runs too far in the other direction: Lead actors Owen Wilson and Maya Rudolph may be sympathetic, but they’re stuck in a bad script that wallows in its own naughty words. Worse: the story almost ignores its female protagonist despite her being just as intellectually qualified as the male one. Through Idiocracy does have its generous share of rude laughs, it eventually suffers from its own contradictions. No wonder it went almost directly to DVD; it’s just about worth a marginal rental.

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