on September 01, 2006 by Jay Antani
Remember that scene in “Star Wars” when Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker look out over the desert at Moss Eisley space port -- that “most wretched hive of scum and villainy” -- in the distance? There's a shot in Mike Judge's “Idiocracy” that mimics it, but it's even more forbidding. For instead of a lawless colony of irascible, clarinet-playing aliens, we get one gigantic Costco. It stretches into the horizon, surrounded by a sprawl of trailers and garbage. The soul cowers at the sight of it.

“Idiocracy” could be the most dystopian view of America's future ever put to film. Its future-scape is riddled with mountains of uncollected trash, cities teetering on the brink of collapse (a couple of skyscrapers are tied to each other with rope to keep from toppling) and totally dominated by hegemonic fast-food corporations (Carls Jr. gets thoroughly spanked throughout). Worst of all, its peopled entirely by morons.

There are several moments in Judge and Etan Cohen's script so hysterically funny, and the satire on display is so rudely on- target at times, that “Idiocracy” demands attention. While Fox is clearly giving up on the pic's theatrical run (this is exactly the kind of bizarre, bleak material to cause a studio marketing exec to break out in a rash), it'll likely become a cult favorite once released on DVD.

Compulsively likeable Luke Wilson plays the average Joe Bowers, an Army private, who, along with Rita (Maya Rudolph), a prostitute, takes part in an ill-fated government cryogenics experiment. When they awaken, they find themselves in the 26th century in an America overrun by IQ-challenged white-trash dimwits and inner-city gangstas. Everyone, even doctors, wear oversized, logo-splattered sports jerseys and track pants. If, per chance, you want a coffee and a hand-job, a trip to Starbucks will kill both birds.

Word of Bowers' high IQ, (relatively speaking) prompts America's pimped-out President Camacho (a fantastic Terry Crews)—think “Rocky's” Apollo Creed crossed with Rick James—to hire Bowers to revitalize the nation's barren farmlands and its shambling economy. Bowers grudgingly agrees, hoping it'll give him and Rita a window of opportunity to escape back to their native century. If Bowers fails, the threat of a third-act death-by- monster-truck looms.

When Judge and Cohen are lampooning the hip-hopped, brain- deadened America of Fox TV and Carl's Jr. (slogan: “F*ck you. I'm eating.”), “Idiocracy” revs on all pistons. But, finally, this one-trick pony needs a more invigorating story. We're craving for Judge to broaden the subjects of his satire, or at least create characters suggested by more than cultural stereotypes. It seems Judge spent most of his time designing vitriolic cultural gags. And, as hilarious as these can be, it's at the expense of freshly drawn characters -- Rudolph is woefully underused -- and whip-smart storytelling. “Idiocracy” ultimately sputters out, managing to go only so far as an engine built on buffoonery without adequate brains can handle. Starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Mitch Baker, Tom Beaver, Terry Crews, Ryan Christopher and Brendan Hill. Directed by Mike Judge. Written by Mike Judge and Etan Cohen. Produced by Mike Judge and Elysa Koplovitz. A Fox release. Comedy. Rated R for language and sex-related humor. Running time: 84 min.
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