The following is a reprise of a review I wrote some years ago. Unfortunately, as the years have passed, the film looks less like a satire and more like a documentary.
Director and writer Mike Judge’s cult classic film Idiocracy mines lethal satire from low comedy and shows a genius for defining stupidity.
Welcome to the year 2505. The president of the United States is a former porn star and three-time “Smackdown” champion, the nation’s top law school is housed in Costco, the most popular TV show in the country is the graphically painful “Ow My Balls,” and the Number 1 film in America is the aptly titled Ass, a full-length feature that simply depicts a bare buttocks accompanied by audible fart sounds.
Such is the bleak yet hilarious future world of director, writer, and actor Mike Judge, whose comedy Idiocracy presages an America so dumbed down by dysgenics and junk culture that steroidal consumerism and baseline I.Q. have combined to create, literally, an Everest-sized cultural garbage heap.
A five-century siesta
Idiocracy’s story line follows Private Joe Bauers, played by Luke Wilson, an average, middle of the Bell Curve guy and Rita, a pimp-persecuted hooker played by Maya Rudolph, who in the year 2005 become guinea pigs in an army experiment to suspend soldiers in deep sleep for use in future combat.
Although Joe and Rita are only supposed to be sealed in hibernation for one year, the project goes awry when the officer in charge of the test is arrested for colluding with Rita’s pimp, Upgrayedd (pronounced “Upgrade”), in a prostitution ring. The project gets forgotten and the military base is shut down and replaced by a Fuddruckers.
Joe and Rita, meanwhile, doze for the next 500 years, awakened only when a giant garbage pile, onto which their hibernation chamber had been piled, collapses into an avalanche, jarring them awake in 2505.
The dense shall inherit the Earth
What they find is a population devolved to such a level of stupidity that it can’t address even the most basic societal functions like clearing garbage or growing crops. How this happened is revealed in the opening scene of the movie, when the narrator tells us:
As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction—a dumbing down.”\
We’re then shown the dynamics of the dumbing process as we follow a quick-cut history of two different family trees: the first, a super I.Q.-ed but rigidly fallow yuppie couple; and the other, the permanently rudimentary-reading-leveled, yet doggedly fecund, “Clevon.” The first line ends in abrupt infertility, while Clevon’s spawn spread like kudzu in Georgia.
A dystopian fantasy
Idiocracy is wondrously dysfunctional. A view of the Washington D.C. of 2505 reveals a White House with broken cars up on blocks scattered across a scorched lawn, and collapsing skyscrapers held up with oversized twine. All clothing is plastered with corporate logos, and the Secretary of State is paid to insert the phrase “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.” into everything he says.
Meanwhile, patients are admitted to “St. God’s Hospital,” where our hero Joe receives a diagnosis of “tarded” and “f**ked up.” Joe annoys the future citizens because he speaks in full sentences, a trait they find “faggy.”
Joe is soon discovered to be the smartest man on Earth — a potential liability — while Rita finds that incredibly stupid people make perfect Johns. Yet, she still fears that, sooner or later, Upgrayedd will track her down.
The talent behind Idiocracy
Mike Judge is the wit who brought “Beavis and Butt-Head,” “King of the Hill,” and “The Goode Family” to television, and who wrote and directed the highly acclaimed film Office Space and the mixed-reviewed feature Extract.
Satirical though it is, Judge’s work celebrates ordinary people, while raising themes of masculinity, class, IQ, and character. It’s been said that Hank Hill, hero of “King of the Hill” may be the most admirable sit-com father since “The Cosby Show.”
The Idiocracy Controversy
Idiocracy revisits Cyril Kornbluth’s 1951 science fiction story, “The Marching Morons,” which portrayed a future world gone mad through the explosive breeding of less intelligent people.
While Judge claims his works reflect social rather than political issues, Idiocracy’s blunt portrayal of dysgenics may explain why 20th Century Fox only allowed a limited release of Idiocracy a full two years after its production. Even with this, the studio didn’t provide a movie trailer or any substantial marketing campaign.
The film was finally released to DVD in January 2007, and soon after aired on Cinemax and HBO. These showings quickly launched Idiocracy to its present cult status, where it gathers an ever-growing devoted following.
President Joe Bauers
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, so it’s no spoiler to reveal that our average Joe, with Rita by his side, eventually accedes to the highest office in the land to redirect the country.
And by what course will he steer the Ship of State? Listen as President Joe addresses Congress for the first time:
“And there was a time in this country, a long time ago, when reading wasn’t just for fags and neither was writing. People wrote books and movies, movies that had stories so you cared whose ass it was and why it was farting, and I believe that time can come again.”
Find and watch Idiocracy for a healthy dose of future shock and present laughter. And wait for Upgrayedd’s final appearance.