'Office Space' was a phenomenon, a cult classic in the truest sense. The Mike Judge-directed comedy made a paltry $800,000 profit from a 1999 theatrical run before finding a legion of disciples on DVD, where it would become one of 20th Century Fox's top-selling DVDs of all time, not to mention earn a place in pop culture lore as one of the most quotable movies ever. Judge, occupied by TV's 'King of the Hill,' was in no hurry to follow up his directorial debut. But when it was announced a couple years back that Judge was making another film, 'Office Space' fanatics began their salivating.
A Moviefone staffer visited the Texas set of the 'Untitled Mike Judge Project' and reported hilarious details about the plot: It's a time of peace, and Luke Wilson plays an Average Joe (named ... Joe) in the military cryogenically frozen in order to "save" for the next war. Something of course goes awry, and he's awaken 500 years in the future, in a society so dumbed-down he's instantly declared the smartest man alive. The population has become so reliant on and inundated with consumerism that they believe Gatorade is better for you than water, and they irrigate their crops with energy drinks. The president is a professional wrestler. The English language has been reduced to a mishmash of slang.
It all sounded so damn brilliant, Judge expanding the reach of his satirical wand from office culture to the entirety of American culture. But the release date was pushed. Several times. Finally, there was word that Fox, with the faintest of fanfare (no critics screenings, trailer or even a poster), would open the film September 1, 2006 ... in only a handful of cities (not including New York). Talk about flair: It soon became clear the studio was only willing to give this film the bare minimum in terms of exposure. For reasons unknown, it was officially being buried. Conspiracy theories flooded the web on why it wasn't being marketed: With such a biting satire of U.S. corporations (in Mike Judge's future, a "latte" at Starbucks is the equivalent to something you'd pay for in Amsterdam's Red Light district), was Fox and its parent company, News Corp, afraid of pissing off television sponsors? Was there a deep-seeded beef between Judge and Fox, the studio punishing him by fulfilling the most minimal of distribution requirements? Or were there reasons less controversial? Fans speculated the film could really just be baaaaaad, or maybe Fox hoped to follow the 'Office Space' model of success on DVD.
Whatever the case, it was a mean trick to play on me. I mean, us, the 'Office Space' faithful. But at least now it hardly matters, as 'Idiocracy' is finally available on DVD. And even with massive expectations, I found the movie respectably hilarious, if a little messy. It's chockfull of the sort of subtleties and one-liners that made 'Office Space' so sharp, and no doubt will get better with second, third and fiftieth viewings. It's an incendiary and ambitious commentary on consumerism and corporations. And no small feat, it made me appreciate Dax Shepard for the first time in my lifetime. Judge does let a little too much hinge on the energy-drink-for-crops gag, and like some notable classic comedies, falls apart a bit toward the end. But finally, thank Murdoch above, it's available for us to watch. Again and again and again, if we so please.
Especially Recommended for: 'Office Space' fans, Luke Wilson groupies, Idiots
Other New DVD Releases This Week (Jan. 9)
'The Night Listener'
'Conversations With Other Women'
'I Trust You to Kill Me'
See last week's DVD pick