Idiocracy

idiocracy_poster“I’m Secretary of State, brought to you by Carl’s Jr.”

The Scoop: 2006 R, directed by Mike Judge and starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, and Dax Shepard

Tagline: From the creator of “Beavis and Butthead” and “Office Space”

Summary Capsule: Like Buck Rodgers, Luke Wilson is frozen and sent into the far future… but unlike Buck, the future hasn’t improved. It’s devolved.

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Justin’s Rating: I guess the title is apt for Fox Studios, eh?

Justin’s Review: I don’t know why Mike Judge (Beavis & Butthead) puts up with Hollywood. After Office Space bombed at the theaters and in the reviews — partially in due to horribly poor publicity — it sprang to life in the cult circuit and became something of a hero for those slaving in the corporate pits. (Interesting trivia bit: Mike Judge played the manager at Chotchkie’s in the film.) I’ve seen so many media sources slowly eat their words on that movie (Entertainment Weekly is one notable example: “We like it now! We’re cool! Love us!”), and while Judge probably felt vindicated in the long run, the initial condemnation had to have left a bad taste in his mouth.

More than six years later, and his next movie barely limped to theaters — only 125 screens showed it — after languishing for over two years in post-development hell. I ask you, if Judge had earned his stripes over King of the Hill, Office Space, and Beavis & Butthead, what sort of stupid idiot would treat him like the servant boy who tracked mud all over the house? Oh, it’s Fox. Thanks, Fox!

When the first I’d heard about this movie was stumbling upon a 2007 review of the DVD release, I saw red. I’m sorry, Mike Judge. You deserve so much better.

Whether or not Idiocracy is destined for the same cult stardom of Office Space is unknown, but Judge once again throws caution to the wind by giving us a bitingly sharp satire of stupidity — this time, in our daily culture.

Joe (Luke Wilson), a completely average military librarian, is “volunteered” for an army experiment to put him in suspended hibernation for a year. Things go wrong, and instead of waking up in 2006, he finds himself staggering into the world of 2505, where everything’s gone to hell in a handbasket.

No, it’s not a nuclear war, or Agent Smith feeding off our bioelectricity, or even those damned dirty apes, but the evolution of human stupidity. The omnipresent narrator informs us that while stupid people had been breeding like rabbits (witness any mid-afternoon talk show with topics like “I married my sister, but found out she’s a goat!” for examples of such), the smart folk kept putting off procreation until the I.Q. was bred out of mankind.

The result is a comfort culture run amok. Joe discovers, to his horror, that he’s by far the smartest person on the planet. The rest of the people around him sate their lives with an overabundance of television, junk food, and trailer trash versions of the criminal justice system. Joe’s ability to put together coherent sentences is seen as girly, and he finds himself as an outsider without his own bar coded tattoo to give him an identity.

I’ll get the worst out of the way now. Idiocracy has its troubles, and the obnoxious narrator is foremost on my list. I suspect he was thrown in to make the movie more clear to the idiots that went to watch it (and were subsequently parodied), but nothing here begs for a narrator when some clever dialogue or set dressing might clear things up. Every time the growly narrator boomed from the soundtrack, I felt pulled out of the movie and somewhat annoyed. Another minus to mention is Luke Wilson himself, who pulls off the least amount of acting possible to collect his paycheck. Wake up and do some comedy, man!

Aside from that, the movie itself is the real character, and the world of 2505 is imagined in garish and hilarious highlights (such as icons replacing any real written language, or a beverage corporation replacing water everywhere with its liquid green product). Every other character is about three I.Q. points above a dog, and talks in incomprehensible slang and broken sentences. It’s like being at a gun and knife show. Some of the special effects are nifty, and we even get to meet President Camacho, an ex-porn star/professional wrestler who leads the wave in spandex attire, and his House of Representin’.

Through all this, Judge wields his satire like a bludgeon, taking whacks at both corporate excess (I really wonder why — or if — the companies mentioned in this movie gave their consent to be used like this) and the growing population of idiots in the world who see the apex of their life as money, sex, beer, wrestling, swearing, monster truck rallies, and kicking people in the crotch. Nothing in here is subtle, but it’s not meant to be, and it’s a great release if you’ve ever been frustrated about the tendency of others around you to grovel at the shrine of base humor.

If you don’t hate stupidity and the dumbing down of our culture — of which I’m undoubtably a part of — then you are stupid. But that’s okay, since you won’t have the comprehension skills necessary to read this.

Luke Wilson, human gong

Luke Wilson, human gong

Intermission!

  • The film was originally titled The United States of Uhh-merica.
  • Upon horrible test screenings and an inability to promote the film, Fox considered postponing Idiocracy indefinitely. Fox got into battles with Mike Judge over the content (especially since the movie took swipes at Fox itself), and forced him to heavily re-edit it. It then released the movie in six U.S. cities with no promotion whatsoever (there’s only two publicity screenshots on the web, both of which you can see on this here page).
  • After his budget was cut, Mike Judge went to his friend Robert Rodriguez to help with some of the special effects.
  • The corporate jabs at Starbucks, Fuddruckers, Carl’s Jr., Costco, and Gatoraide (sort of)
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? After the credits, Upgrayedd makes his triumphant return!

Groovy Quotes

Frito: Go away! ‘Batin!

Joe: [addressing Congress] … great films, with plots! Where you cared about whose ass it was, and why it was farting!

Costco Greeter: Welcome to Costco, I love you.

Officer Collins: [addressing military brass] You see, a pimp’s love is very different from that of a square.

Secretary of State: I’m Secretary of State, brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

Joe: I just need you to tell me how to get to the time machine.
Frito: Oh, that’s easy. You go down by the museum and stuff… It’s like- it’s, like, by the museum… Sorta by… Actually, not really. More like on the street, you go, um… Wait, let me start over. Okay, you know where the time machine is?

Joe: Today I step into the shoes of a great man, a man by the name of Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Office Space
  • Beavis and Butthead Do America
  • Sleeper
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