IF there’s a DVD screaming out for a director’s commentary, it is the new release Idiocracy . The latest comedy from Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt- Head and King of the Hill and director of Office Space, is a cracker, albeit one that doesn’t quite become a classic. It had greater ambition than budget.
Perhaps Judge’s commentary would be as entertaining as the film, which shows he clearly has some archly satirical things to say about modern America. What he might have to say about the troubled life of his comedy would surely be just as illuminating.
Idiocracy, which didn’t receive a cinema release here, was held from release for a year and quickly dumped in the US after its studio, Twentieth Century Fox ( owned by News Corporation, which also owns News Limited, publisher of The Weekend Australian ), developed sweaty palms. Reportedly it didn’t test well with research audiences.
Little wonder. Judge’s basic premise is that society, through time, doesn’t progress but that intelligence declines. The film’s withering and questionable opening explains why: the stupid outbreed the smart.
So when Luke Wilson’s character Joe, a bumbling army bureaucrat selected for a cryogenics experiment ( it should have been a Disney film) awakes in 2505, he is the smartest man on the planet. So smart, he’s elected to the US cabinet.
You can understand why the film was a little too biting for its studio. Judge’s representation of a world of butt- heads takes big shots at the audience the film would have played to: middle America.
Generally, Judge shows contempt for politics, moral standards and the capitalism that encourages blind obedience. A sports drink has supplanted water as the liquid of life because ‘‘ It’s what plants crave!’’
And there’s plenty of fart jokes which, in this tale, become politically relevant.
Judge is such a skilled observer that the contempt, while occasionally nasty, is oh- sofunny, even if Idiocracy doesn’t achieve the satirical success of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. He’s adept at couching highbrow statements in low- brow comedy. Occasionally puerile? Yes. Patchy? Yes. Worth viewing? Yes.
Idiocracy’s future as a cult DVD favourite is assured. Judge’s enigmatic career in cinema counts in the film’s favour.
Office Space , his previous film comedy, flopped on its cinema release in 1999 but has become one of the true cult hits, and perennial sellers, of the DVD era.
Idiocracy is not as well- pitched as that film, a comedy that satirised office cubicle culture with a deft touch and terrific performances by Ron Livingston, Gary Cole, Stephen Root and a younger Jennifer Aniston.
Idiocracy ’ s leads, Wilson and Saturday Night Live ’ s Maya Rudolph, don’t really know what to do as everything else — supplementary characters, hilarious set design and deliberately hokey special effects — overshadows them. But the film’s relevance and commentary is spot- on.
* * * DISC WATCH: Stranger Than Fiction ( Roadshow, M, $ 29.99). Marc Forster is quietly becoming one of cinema’s most interesting directors. After Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland and Stay , he manages to corral a likable dramatic performance from Will Ferrell, recently immortalised in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby , up against Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. A smart, sweet and alluring movie. bodeym@ theaustralian. com. au