JUDGE’S NEW FILM HAS CASE OF THE MONDAYS
Have you seen the new movie from the creator of “Office Space,” “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “King of the Hill”?
Don’t sweat it – hardly anyone else has, either.
“Idiocracy,” the first movie from writer/director Mike Judge since his 1999 cult hit “Office Space,” is the kind of cinematic event comedy geeks have been breathlessly anticipating since it was announced.
“A friend of mine sent me the script about three years ago,” says Edward Havens, publisher of the movie site filmjerk.com. “It was one of the most hilarious screenplays I’ve ever read. I’ve been waiting and waiting for it to come out.”
Finally, last Friday, it did – in a bizarrely stealthy manner, in only seven cities (none of them New York), and with zero fanfare, advertising or publicity of any kind. Unless you knew where to look, you’d never know it existed.
Judge’s new comedy revolves around an average guy named Joe (Luke Wilson), who’s cryogenically frozen in the present day and wakes up in the year 3001, where he discovers he is the smartest man on Earth.
In an across-the-board swipe at current American culture, the movie depicts out-of-control corporations, stupefyingly dumb TV (the most popular show is “Ow, My Balls!”) and a president (Terry Crews of “Everybody Hates Chris”) who’s a former pro wrestler and porn star.
“There was so much ‘biting the hand that feeds you’ type of humor,” says Havens. “I didn’t expect half the stuff to make it in [to the final movie]. But, somehow, he got away with it.”
Luckily for Havens, he lives in L.A., one of the cities where the movie is actually playing (the others are Chicago, Austin, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Toronto). But it was solely due to Havens’ film-insider status that he knew about it, because the movie hasn’t been publicized.
“There were only, like, 10 people at the screening I went to, including my wife and me,” he says. “But everybody was really into it.”
Mark Bazer, a Chicago-based humor writer, had a similar experience last weekend. “I saw no ads in the paper, no commercials, no press screenings, nothing,” says Bazer, who loved the film. “There were maybe, maybe, 10 people in the theater when I saw it – on the day it was released.”
A Fox spokesperson, who prefers to remain nameless, would say only that the company doesn’t comment on its marketing policies.
Which isn’t much consolation to Judge’s New York fans.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” says Todd Jackson, creator of the comedy blog deadfrog.com. “This is a man who hasn’t missed yet. Everything he’s done has worked, on multiple levels. He’s batting 1.000, both comedically and commercially. Why would you question his judgment?”
Of course, there’s a history of doubting Judge’s judgment; “Office Space” wasn’t promoted or publicized, either. When “Office Space” was released on DVD, however, it took off, becoming a much-quoted underground hit.
Critically, “Idiocracy” has received less glowing reviews than “Office Space” – the handful of critics who’ve weighed in have noted the movie definitely has its flaws – but many have also called it spot-on black comedy.
“Absolutely a satire for our times,” Robert Koehler wrote in his Variety review.
“Perhaps,” wrote Sheri Linden in the Hollywood Reporter, “the incisive satire cuts too close to home, with its dystopian vision of a world peopled by inarticulate, TV-addicted dolts . . . Perhaps low test-screening results reflect the very dumbing down the film laments.”
Or maybe the whole thing is an edgy new viral-marketing ploy, an experimental bid to see if a studio can whip up a cult hit simply by seeming like they’re trying to kill it off.
A simpler explanation was proposed by Josh Tyler, editor-in-chief of movie site cinemablend.com.
“It trashes the brand names of major modern-day corporations,” he points out. “Starbucks of the future has become a popular chain of full-release, full-service sex huts. Costco takes a hit. Carl’s Jr. gets bashed. Taco Bell is the butt of a joke.
“The corporate brand-name bashing in the movie is endless.”
But don’t look to Judge to sweet-talk Fox out of its decision; the soft-spoken director recently opened up to Esquire about his “Office Space”-like inability to suck up to the suits.
“I just hate doing it so much,” he told the magazine. “I’m not able to do it without feeling insulted and stressed out. It’s really my own fault. I really don’t have any right to complain.”
9197 – I wanna see it!!
JUDGE’S NEW FILM HAS CASE OF THE MONDAYS