Monday, 23 April 2012

"Idiocracy" took less than $500,000 at the box office - yet it's hilarious!

The most average soldier in the American army is chosen for an experiment in supended animation. He wakes up five hundred years later to find that people have become so stupid that he's the smartest guy on the planet. I generally try to avoid American comedies involving very stupid people - but this had me regularly snorting with laughter for at least the first 50 minutes. The whole thing's available on YouTube:

The director and scriptwriter Mike Judge was was responsible for hit animated TV shows Beavis and Butthead (which I didn't enjoy) and King of the Hill (which was more to my taste). When the film was handed over to the studio in 2006 , they promptly sat on it for a year, then gave it an extremely limited release without any form of marketing. Unsuprisingly, it bombed. Equally unsurprisingly, given how funny it is, it has gone on to become a bit of a cult classic.

Judge's premise is simple - if middle class American reproduction rates continue to drop, and if society's most moronic members continue to breed like rabbits, disaster will ensue. Judge has always been very careful not to reveal his political opinions - but although eugenics have largely been a left-wing enthusiasm, one get the distinct impression that the director is to be found somewhere on the right of the political spectrum: there's been speculation that he's a South Park-style libertarian (no series on mainstream television has ever ripped the prevailing liberal ideology to shreds as viciously as South Park).

I wrote about dystopian "moron" science fiction stories a couple of years ago (you can read it here). Of the three stories I mentioned, Idiocracy shares some themes with Walter Tevis's Mockingbird - for instance, both feature entertainment based almost solely on pornography and violence (the top TV show in Idiocracy is Ow! My Balls). But there aren't a lot of laughs in Mockingbird, and, in its the comic relish, the film more closely resembles C.M. Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons" and Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron"

It's not the greatest film I've ever seen, and was evidently made on a shoestring, but it's full of good ideas.

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