What's up with Idiocracy?

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If you live in Austin, I assume you know who Mike Judge is ... you may even have spotted him around town. You know, the unassuming man who sounds a little bit like Hank Hill (for good reason). When he spoke to a class at UT I audited in the spring, he rode his bike from his office to the classroom.

What you might not know is that Mike Judge has a movie opening in theaters on Friday. He wrote and directed Idiocracy, a comedy that stars Luke Wilson, Dax Shepherd, and Maya Rudolph. Stephen Root, who had a role in Judge's Office Space and played a recurring character on King of the Hill, has a small role. Wilson plays a guy who is kept in suspended animation and revived 1,000 years later. He wasn't very smart in the twenty-first century, but in the future, everything is so dumbed-down that he is hailed as a genius.

At least, I think that's the plot. I can't tell for sure because no publicity materials are available for this film. Critics are becoming familiar with studios not having press screenings for movies that they think will be panned, but Fox hasn't released any trailers or publicity materials for Idiocracy. If you look around the Web, you will see the same two still photos everywhere for Idiocracy. No Web site exists (not even on MySpace!).

Here's a copy of one of the two photos circulating around the Web:

Idiocracy

Normally I would crop the text on the bottom, but this time it's important. The still is from 2004, and at the time, the film was still referred to as "Untitled Mike Judge Project." It's not even a recently created publicity shot.

And when I say that Idiocracy opens Friday, I mean that it is opening in only a few cities: Austin (yay), Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto, according to this Austin Chronicle article. Notice that New York isn't on the list. Austinites can be happy that for once, we're getting a movie first, before NYC even, but this release pattern doesn't bode well for the film. Box Office Mojo lists it as opening on only 125 screens (and I'm wondering if that isn't a generous estimate).

Is Idiocracy a bad film, or simply misunderstood by the studio for which it was made, Fox? Bear in mind that Fox wasn't crazy about Judge's previous feature, Office Space, which has since become a culty hit on DVD. (High-tech Austin adores the film.)

When Mike Judge spoke to my aforementioned UT class back in January, he was obviously disgusted with certain aspects of making movies for a studio, especially test screenings. He told some pretty funny stories about test screenings for Office Space -- the kind of funny where you feel lucky the movie got the release it did. Judge obviously wasn't happy with the way test screenings were being handled for Idiocracy, and the recommendations that Fox was making. He said he didn't want to work for a studio again -- he would prefer to raise money himself for low-budget films over which he had more control.

At least in Austin, we have the opportunity before most of the rest of you either to uncover a hidden comedy gem, or to suffer through a tedious, unfunny bomb, starting on Friday. Idiocracy opens here at the following theaters: Alamo on South Lamar, Galaxy Highland, Gateway, Tinseltown in Pflugerville, and Lakeline. I'm reviewing the movie for Cinematical, and with no screenings available beforehand, plan to go on Friday night.

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What's Up With Idiocracy?

I'll have to see it and try to guess why the release was delayed. I know people who know people who were in the movie, and have been interested in it, but never heard and wondered whatever happened to it.

For those among us who find anything with Luke Wilson irresistible, there's another one of his locally made films, The Wendell Baker Story, that has also never been released - at least in the US. The IMDb says you can buy the DVD in Scandinavia.

I auditioned for Idiocracy

I auditioned for this, ages ago, and what I saw of the script seemed like idiotic humor to me, but who knows, maybe it's brilliant!!!