Writer-director Mike Judge doesn't get much love when it comes to his films' theatrical releases. His classic Office Space, which got a so-so release with little promotion, bombed at the box office and found cult life on home video.
With the second live-action film from the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head, Fox totally wussed out. They released the movie in something like seven cities and gave the film no promotional backup. Word began to spread that Judge had made a shit film that the studio was embarrassed to put its name on. There were massive delays in filming; Judge couldn't get the budget he needed for special effects; the movie sat on the shelf until its pitiful theatrical run.
My verdict: This film is funny. Very, very funny. It's also as dark as dark can get when it comes to comedy, maybe even a little bit frightening. It's no surprise that Fox had no idea how to advertise it, because there really hasn't been any movie like it in the past. It's nasty stuff, and as scary a predictor for our future as Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.
Luke Wilson plays Joe, an extremely average U.S. soldier with a desk job. He's forced into a military experiment where he and a female (a hooker played by Maya Rudolph) will be frozen for one year, but a mishap results in him being in hibernation for 500 years. During the time he is sleeping, evolution has favored the reckless and unintelligent, so they reproduce at higher rates than those with higher IQs and more sense. By the time Joe awakens, the world is full of morons, and he is the smartest man on the planet.
In Judge's future, Fuddruckers has become ButtFuckers; Carl's Jr. takes children into protective custody if the parents are deemed unworthy; and the president is a former wrestling/porn superstar. The No. 1 TV show is Oww My Balls! (a man gets his balls kicked and crushed for a half-hour), and the No. 1 movie is Ass (a butt on screen for 90 minutes that farts every few seconds).
Joe befriends his lawyer, a man named Frito (Dax Shepard, playing one of screendom's all-time-great morons). They try getting Joe to a time machine (spelled "Time Masheen") so that he may return to more normal times. Scrapes with the health system, prison and finally a monster-truck death match ensue before the film's funny conclusion.
The thing that is so scary about this movie is that the morons depicted in it are already out walking the streets. These are not comic exaggerations; the people of Judge's future already exist today. In Judge's sick mind, evolution doesn't necessarily favor the intelligent, and that's a chilling thought. Global warming is a bitch, but dropping IQs could cause just as much devastation as a glacier melt.
Special Features: Not surprisingly, the DVD extras suck. There are a few lousy deleted scenes, and that's it. There's no Judge commentary, no nothing. I have a feeling this will sell well on DVD once the word spreads, and someday, we will get a DVD where Judge happily discusses the mistreatment of his genius movie.
The better of two decent films about magicians that came out last year (the other being the The Prestige). Edward Norton plays Eisenheim, a magician who comes back into contact with his childhood sweetheart as an adult (Jessica Biel). When a tragedy occurs, Eisenheim uses dark magic to mess with a criminal investigator (Paul Giamatti). The movie is a decent romance, a haunting look at magic and a great mystery all in one. Norton is his usual great self, as is Giamatti. Biel, in a smallish role, does much with her little screen time. The film gets high marks for its cinematography and art direction.
Special Features: There's a commentary from writer/director Neil Burger and a couple of featurettes on the making of the movie.
It's so unbelievably cool to get all of these great Capra films in one package. You get gems like It Happened One Night, You Can't Take It With You, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and American Madness all in one box.
The shining star of this collection would have to be It Happened One Night, a terrific movie that you can pretty much blame for the modern-day romantic comedy. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are one of history's greatest screen couples, and the movie has lost none of its charm in the 70 years since it was made.
On top of that, you get to spend some great time with the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper.
Special Features: Ron Howard hosts a great full-length documentary on Capra's life. The movie discs contain commentaries, including one by Capra's son on the Night disc.