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Heroes of the Zeroes: Idiocracy

by on May 21, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated R

If Mike Judge’s movie clout were an “Office Space” character, it would be Milton Waddams — consigned to cinema’s Storage Room B.

Not even “Office Space’s” immortal iconography of workplace suckitude could save Judge’s “Idiocracy” from languishing on Fox’s shelves for two years before a 130-screen dump over Labor Day 2006.

“From the director of ‘Office Space’ ” should’ve been slogan enough. But how does a studio market a scathing satire about advertising’s ultimate triumph over individuality — rumored to have sparked civil-suit threats from featured businesses like Fuddrucker’s, Costco and Carl’s Jr. and including a brilliant zinger at Fox’s own barbarous cable-news division?

“Idiocracy’s” demented look at destructive mass consumption barely approached feature length. However, Judge and co-writer Etan Cohen dotted every appealingly cheap scene with spastic sight gags and offered examples of cultural decay that were fiendishly hilarious and frighteningly plausible (e.g., a TV show called “Ow! My Balls,” electrolyte-enhanced Gatorade-esque drink Brawndo and an Oscar-sweeping movie called “Ass.”).

An Army man (Luke Wilson) and a prostitute (Maya Rudolph) agree to a cryogenic-hibernation experiment. Forgotten for 500 years, they awake to an America resembling an “American Gladiators” set, with exploded population and eroded intelligence. Now the smartest people alive, they must save the nation or face death.

Judge realizes it’s easier to sip 96-ounce iced tea while the world rots around us. But “Idiocracy’s” appeal to civic involvement, no matter how minor, genially understands that even getting the ball rolling on a simple improvement project can be a good start.