Thursday, September 14, 2006

Idiocracy

It's hard to say why Mike Judge's new movie Idiocracy has been so completely abandoned. It's in theaters now, though it's not likely to be for long. If you didn't know, it's because 20th Century Fox has buried it with a limited release in only four states (New York, California, Texas and, inexplicably, Georgia) and no advertising. I'd link to a trailer, but there literally isn't one on the Internet. That's how much they're not marketing this movie.

The movie stars Luke Wilson as an incredibly average guy who wakes up five hundred years in the future, only to discover that the dumbing down of society and the devolution of the human race (due to idiots breeding more fruitfully than smart people) has made him the smartest man alive.

The movie isn't bad. In fact, it's hilarious throughout, packed with observant, dead-on satire and delightful absurdities. But it would admittedly be a challenge for marketers. A trailer focusing on the obvious laughs, devoid of context, would likely make the movie look as stupid as the things it's mocking. Maybe Fox is doing this on purpose as some sort of genius anti-marketing. After all, Office Space became a huge cult hit through word-of-mouth, so why spend money advertising this one?

The other possibility is that the studio got jitters over the movie's general aura of unpleasantness. Sure, it's funny, but Mike Judge's Swiftian vision of a society in ruins is utterly committed to its satirical vision. It pulls no punches in depicting what is ultimately an incredibly bleak, nigh-apocalyptic future world. Every frame feels smeared with filth and grime. This is a dystopia that holds its own against anything science fiction has to offer, and the fact that it's played for laughs doesn't make it any less terrifying. This is not the charming, upbeat stupidity of Dumb & Dumber, but an impenetrable, dangerous, painful stupidity, which is what makes the movie so funny but also ultimately risks alienating an audience. Especially from a marketer's perspective.

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