Tuesday, January 09, 2007

IDIOCRACY: SLOUCHING TOWARD A DVD CULT?


And now you can see for yourselves…

Today is the day that Mike Judge’s terrifically crass, superficially dumb (but really smart) Idiocracy emerges from the bog of a perfunctory theatrical dumping at the hands of Twentieth Century Fox and slouches its way toward, if not Bethlehem, then at least the same inevitable DVD cult status that was bestowed upon Judge’s earlier, much more immediately likable Office Space. Bilge Ebiri of the amazing Screengrab has documented, over the course of a series of posts, the curious fate of Judge’s movie (Bilge has finally seen the movie too, and he likes it—a full review on Screengrab is forthcoming.) Meanwhile, Nathan Lee, in the East Bay Express, The Village Voice and all up and down the New Times line, casts a critical but largely appreciative eye toward the movie, and Kim Morgan, who found an honorable mention spot for Idiocracy on her Top-10 of the Year, posts a suitably profane rave that, like Lee’s piece, captures everything that’s enjoyable, perverse and bitterly funny about Judge’s look at the devolution of humanity.

(My own review can be found here.)

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie again on DVD, although I had really hoped for a more complete package than the (surprise!) no-frills affair the folks at Fox have unleashed on the marketplace. I have to say, I prefer the “Devolution for Dummies” design of the DVD box to the tepid Da Vinci parody of the one-sheet that no one saw when the movie registered stillborn in theaters this past fall. If the cult of Idiocracy develops with any similarity to the one surrounding Office Space (“Yeah… That's great… Yeah...”), perhaps Fox (or someone else, like, say, Criterion) might pony up for a DVD that would make room for a Judge commentary or perhaps even a cut of the movie more to the director’s liking than the release version.

But Fox, the corporation that found Turistas, Deck the Halls and Date Movie all suitable for big, splashy releases, is probably just as jittery as ever about putting too much money behind a movie that posits a future where Starbucks doubles as a blow-job parlor, Fuddruckers has finally been rechristened Buttfuckers, and the number-one movie in the country is a two-hour close-up of a titular Ass (complete with occasional flatulence). Kinda makes one wonder if any of the suits bothered to read the script or visit the set before they started shoveling dirt on the movie, or if they actually expected Judge to deliver the kind of flaccid comedy that causes nary a ripple of uproar or dissent on its way to the top of the box office charts.

In his piece, Lee makes an interesting point that Judge’s movie probably errs in laying so much blame for the dumbing-down of the country on the benumbed consumer and not spending more time digging at the roots of those greedy corporate enablers. That’s an aspect of the movie I’ll pay more attention to when I see it again, in between belly laughs, that is. But given the bitter, cynical juice that courses through Idiocracy’s veins, it seems like a fairly tiny nit to pick even if it’s entirely true. I’m just glad for the opportunity to see this ragged, acerbic satire in any format, and I continue to hold out hope for an even better showcase to come.

4 comments:

Benaiah said...

I missed it in theaters, but netflix is reporting that it will be in my hands tonight. I have heard "angry", "scathing" and "hilarious", all of which are making me jones to get home and rip that red envelop apart. Considering how devastating Office Space was in its first half (the plot is less interesting than the setting) my hopes are sky high.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Benaiah-- You're absolutely right about the "plot"-- all that heist business-- being the least interesting thing about Office Space, and that formula holds true for Idiocracy as well. The movie almost audibly starts creaking once Luke Wilson and company get inside the White House. But there are so many more interesting gags and asides going on here-- more than Office Space-- and Judge's whole concept is engaged consistently enough in the set design and the overall sludgy look of the film that the ideas ultimately triumph over the occasional insistence of the narrative to hew to a recognizable formula. Let me know what you think!

Brian said...

I wandered into a Virgin Megastore to escape the "cold snap" (Midwesterners laugh) here in Frisco the other day, and to eye (though not to buy, as I'm trying not to amass much more "stuff" in 2007, and that includes DVDs of films I don't expect to go ever out of print) the Rebel Without a Cause 2-disc set, on sale for 60% off of its sticker price.

Anyway, the point of the anecdote is that Idiocracy started playing on the screens all over the DVD floor, and half the people in the room could not tear their eyes away. Including me. I've never done such a thing before, but I stayed for the whole thing (I may have been the only one to last that long, but my eyes were too glued to the screen to notice when other people were walking away). Yes, I watched a whole movie standing up at Virgin Megastore. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but it's true. (Did I mention it's been really COLD up here lately?)

I assume you've read Michael Sicinksi's take, which I pretty much agree with (not about the voiceover, which seemed totally intentional to me)

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Brian, this is a great story. I've often wanted to do that at Virgin, but never had the ankle strength!

I hope this means you liked the movie. I just bought it last weekend and am really looking forward to revisiting its dingy universe!

And thanks for the link to Michael Sicinski. I had not read it, and I'm really glad that I now have. ANother good source for the bookmark!

Is it any warmer yet by the Bay? Down here, it's been blessedly brisk, though I'm sure that'll all change soon. In Los Angeles, winters, when we get 'em, usually last only about a week, not much longer than we'll tolerate the presence of Hou Hsiao-hsien or Theo Angelopolous in one of our movie theaters!