Thursday, January 18, 2007

Revisit: Office Space & Idiocracy

A 20th Century Fox Production 1999
Written and Directed by Mike Judge

Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), thanks to a hypnotic suggestion, decides not to go to work at the same time his company is laying people off. When layoffs affect his two best friends (David Herman, Ajay Naidu), they conspire to plant a virus that will embezzle money from the company into their account.

A 20th Century Fox Production 2006
Writing Credits: Mike Judge & Etan Cohen
Directed by Mike Judge

Private Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) and Rita (Maya Rudolph), a prostitute, the definition of "average Americans", are selected by the Pentagon to be guinea pigs for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, they awakes 500 years in the future, where they discover a society so incredibly dumbed-down that they are easily the most intelligent people alive.

Office Space was virtually ignored when it was first dumped into theaters by 20th Century fox in 1999, but has since become a cult favorite on DVD. And by 'cult' I mean one of those movies that pretty much everyone everywhere has seen a hundred times. It's basically a comedy classic for the slacker generation, a sincere satire of the drudgeries of modern labor. It's even got that sweet Geto Boys in there.

Since then, Judge has released a new film, the little seen sci-fi based Idiocrachasy, which Fox dumped in a couple of cities back in September. Many theories about why that happened, from rumors about Mike Judge ripping the plot of a short story titled "The Marching Morons" by Cyril M. Kornbluth, copywright 1951, to Fox feeling threatened by Judge's clear satire of their key demographic. Whatever the case, the film is pretty entertaining and furthers many of Judge's familiar motif's in a new and interesting way.

The films have distinct narrative similarities, with blue collar male protagonists who prefer to "sit on their ass" rather than work and then find their way to jail, only to be rewarded for their averageness. But as a sci-fi film, Idiocracy has the added bonus of creating a new version of earth. Idiocracy takes place 500 years into the future, when the human race has gotten so dumb it forgot plants needed water to grow. Judge creates a race of people consumed by violence and perversion, bad advertising and sugar; they speak a mix of ebonics, southern twang and valley girl. While the satire is perhaps not as biting as in Office Space, it's quite funny and has some interesting visuals.

What impressed me most about this film was the art direction. That pic is a bad example, and I don't imagine it had a very large budget, but Judge effectively creates some stellar backgrounds. In one scene, miles of fallen highway sit in a huge desert; mountains of trash in another.

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