Published at: Sept. 2, 2006, 12:06 a.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts, ladies and gentlemen at 20th Century Fox. Quint here.
I was lucky enough to have been in one of the 7 cities you decided to drop IDIOCRACY in and went to one of the 130 theaters showing the film today. In my mind, the thing was a trainwreck. Not just because you wise people at Fox have shelved this project for so long, putting out virtually nothing in terms of ads or marketing, essentially telling us that you have a stinker on your hands and don't know what to do with it, but also because of the Austin film scene. I know a lot of people working in film in this city, on all levels, and I heard Mike Judge underwent massive, massive reshoots. The early word was mixed, but we got some surprisingly good word from their UK test screening.
All that was playing in my mind, to the point that I bought my ticket for an afternoon showing today at the Alamo S. Lamar without really feeling excited to be one of the few cities to have it. I bought my ticket based on the huge success Judge's comedy has had with me in the past. I saw OFFICE SPACE in the theaters. Great experience, one that's only grown better and better each time I see it. I was at a regional premiere for BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD DO AMERICA pre-AICN. I remember the huge controversy surrounding Frog Baseball with the original Beavis & Butthead series on MTV. At each step I've liked what he's done. While I don't follow it regularly, I do enjoy KING OF THE HILL as well. Essentially, he earned my $7.00 Alamo ticket...
Considering there has not been one trailer, my past enjoyment of the filmmaker's material was literally all I had to go on.
It might be because I walked in expecting a trainwreck, an unreleasable mess, that I ended up liking it so much. My expectations were lowered pretty far. It also might be that I had just seen the WICKER MAN remake before I walked into this theater. I have no idea how the film would have played to me if I had been overexposed to it, but I found myself gut-laughing at least a dozen times during IDIOCRACY.
That begs the question. Why? Why did Fox dump it? Why did they dump it with no fanfare at all? No advertising? If it wasn't for the Austin Chronicle, I wouldn't have even known about it and I was watching this project pretty closely!
It's not that they choose to only release really, really good movies. My friend Rav made the point that they just put out JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE, who even my little brother and his friends, high school boys and girls in the target age range, thought was godawful crap.
Okay, so let's look at it. They obviously want this film to go away, get to DVD as quickly as possible. So why the sham theatrical release? Do they have a contract with Judge the guarantees some sort of theatrical release? That's the only thing I can think of. I'd usually say that such a small theatrical release was just a way to advertise the upcoming DVD, but that would require people knowing about it... so that one doesn't wash.
I don't know why Fox would want to give the film such a small chance at success, especially after what they saw happen to OFFICE SPACE, another one of his films they fumbled and is now one of the most often quoted films of the last 10 years. You'd think that'd give them a reason to really get the release of this one right.
I'm really at a loss to explain the thought process here. I would completely understand if they had decided on a platform release, opening in a few cities and then opening wider, much like LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE did over the last few months, but what they're doing is not a limited release. That would require them to... I don't know... let people know the film is out?
I'd love to hear what kind of bizarre, ugly political jumble must exist between Mike Judge or the producers and the studio. There's gotta be something going on and we all know that Tom Rothman is the kind of guy that'd go out of his way to cockblock his own projects in order to stick it to someone he doesn't like. There's gotta be something there, underneath all this.
But let's talk about the movie a little bit.
Sure, the basic premise of a modern day average joe being frozen and thawed out in a radically different future world isn't a new one. FUTURAMA is most often pointed at in regards to this film. There is an undeniable similarity, but this doesn't feel like FUTURAMA at all, nor does it feel like SLEEPER.
The humor in this is also more base than Judge's work on OFFICE SPACE, but certainly not any more lewd than BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD. Certainly not. It's a knock against the ignorant. Not one specific ethnicity or stereotype is focused on here. There is definitely a slant towards the trailer trash stereotype, but every form of ignorance is represented, regardless of what the color of the stereotype is.
Count me shocked that I actually liked Maya Rudolph in this film. I trusted that I'd follow Luke Wilson (although that trust was shaken by just how horrible he was in the anal leak of a film called MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND), but Rudolph was really goddamn funny in this movie. She actually has one of the best lines (surrounding a question involving Einstein). All the supporting players are good, especially Terry Crews as the President of America, a giant dreadlocked pro-wrestler.
The gags in the movie flow constantly and hit more often than they miss. It's not a flawless movie, not by a long shot. You feel it when the jokes miss, but then we'll see the city-sized Costco and its awesome greeter and all is forgiven. Judge's humor is alive and well in this movie. Any fan of BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD should eat this up, but he also hides some intelligence underneath the crude ass and balls jokes.
It's not Judge's strongest movie, but then again that's exactly what I thought of OFFICE SPACE the first time I saw it. Same thing I thought about BIG LEBOWSKI the first time I saw it. After watching them over and over, they've grown to the top of the list. I'm not saying IDIOCRACY is in the same league with those two films, but I am saying that I liked this movie a lot, definitely enough to watch it a few more times and give it a chance to grow past the "Hey, that's pretty funny" level.
With the success of TALLADEGA NIGHTS, one would think Fox would jump at the chance to release this film wide. They both exist to poke fun at the ignorant and TALLADEGA is doing damn well for itself. You'd think Fox would want to grab ahold of them coat-tails, cut some trailers in a similar vain, but sell it as an R-rated comedy that isn't afraid to go past the line where Will Ferrell stopped, and let loose the movie. Instead, they're hiding it in this invisible, minor release and dumping it to video.
If you got a chance to see the movie today or are seeing it this weekend, feel free give us your opinion in the talkback below, whether you agree with me or not. All those words above are just the opinions of one man. Let me know what you guys thought, if you were near one of the 130 theaters that got the movie (in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto) that is.