Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” is not subtle satire or black comedy- it’s a fairly exaggerated yarn that intends to lambaste everything from corporate sponsorship to the rapid mutation of redneck families. And, while the film comes off as inept some times in look and tone, Judge strikes some pretty decent jokes along the way (such as a vending machine that shoots out food and says “here comes your giant ass fries” and then “for twenty bucks extra, do you want a giant ass taco?”) Luke Wilson plays Joe, an average military man who’s chosen for a special experiment due to his above average “averageness” and lack of family who’ll miss him. Maya Rudolph is a hooker who gets paid for her services. They think the army is planning on hibernating them for a year to test out the feasibility of preserving life. Things don’t go so well. The experiment is abruptly shut down and they’re left frozen for 500 years and when they awake, the world has dumbed-down dramatically and Joe and Maya become the smartest people on earth. The President is an ex porn star and WWE wrestling figure while society has degenerated into leaving huge piles of garbage around, and creating media that supply man’s basic needs- food and sex (such as a Masturbation channel and the idea that water is only found in toilets and the drink of choice is a Gatorade-like drink because “it has electrolytes!”) Like I mentioned earlier, Judge hits some striking moments with his humor throughout the film, but the presence of Dax Shepherd as Joe’s accomplice along the way brings things down dramatically and Maya Rudolph seems to be reaching in a lot of her performance. In “Office Space”, the acting was spot-on, creating vivid characters that arched the story along in unsuspecting and generous ways. In “Idiocracy”, Judge relies on the outrageous themes to overshadow the human element, and it wears out its welcome pretty fast. This isn’t a disaster, just a disappointment.
The Wicker Man
Another disappointment… oh hell who am I kidding- we all knew this one was bad. Neil Labute’s “The Wicker Man” enticed me by the fact it could present some unsettling moments and somehow enrich the bland 1973 film of the same title, but this was even worse than I imagined. I’ll say this once. I do not get Nicolas Cage. I can’t think of a single performance since his off kilter turn in “Peggy Sue Got Married” and his marginal stint in “Bringing Out the Dead” that I’ve liked. He seems false, unsure of himself in every performance. I scratched my head over enormous praise lauded him in films like “Adaptation” and “The Weather Man”, and wanted to close my ears every time he spoke in “World Trade Center”. Here he plays a California highway patrol police office lured to the Pacific Northwest by an ex-fiance who claims to be missing her daughter in a hippie-like commune. Sure…. I’d fly out there right away too. People start dying, Cage starts to go a little nutty and he yells at a woman via gunpoint to “step away from the bike!” And not a motorcycle, but a bicycle. Things get even worse when he puts on a bear costume and begins to run around the country side looking for this little girl. It’s awful I tell you. “The Wicker Man” is the type of film that movie-goers dread- it has little intelligence and even less care for giving the audience anything striking or original.
Probably the best film of this little bunch has to be Neil Burger’s “The Illusionist”, boasting an all star cast of Edward Norton as the “magician” Eisenheim and Paul Giamatti as the chief inspector determined to uncover the supposedly naturalistic devices of Eisenheim’s tricks. Filmed with great care and beauty by Dick Pope and scored by one of my favorite composers, Philip Glass, “The Illusionist” builds terrific suspense out of a complex little story. Even though it eventually telegraphs its conclusion, the journey is highly enjoyable and Edward Norton and Giamatti display great chemistry