Idiocracy (2006) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for language and sex-related humor
Running Time: 84 min.

Cast: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, David Herman, Brendan Hill, Kevin Klee, Justin Long, Stephen Root
Director: Mike Judge

Screenplay: Mike Judge, Etan Cohen
Review published December 30, 2006

Idiocracy is a sometimes dead-on satire built around writer-director Mike Judge's perceived dumbing down of America due to current trends in education, entertainment, and politics.  In some ways, I think it effectively states what a documentary about the recent gravitation towards foolishness, Stupidity, could not.  We not only act stupid ourselves, we also glorify people who are even bigger idiots, sitting on the couch for hours and watching them do outrageously stupid things like in reality shows like "Survivor" or "Jackass".  We also fall for stupid marketing schemes where we believe words like "extreme" and "ultimate" really mean anything, we want our news reports to include such trivial gossip like celebrity births or public embarrassments, and we have even elected (and re-elected) a president who, by his own admission, is at an intelligence level not much higher than the common citizen.  What's worse, we openly ridicule anything that tries to be intelligent as "boring", "snooty", and, perhaps most ironic, "stupid". 

There actually is a story (savvy science fiction addicts have compared it to the similarly-premised 1951 short story, "The Marching Morons", by Cyril Kornbluth) within the film, revolving around an average-intellect military librarian named Joe (average Joe, get it?) who has been chosen to be used in an experiment (the Army wants to keep their best men for then they need them most) where he is to be placed in suspended hibernation for a year, alongside a prostitute named Rita (Rudolph, A Prairie Home Companion).  After some legal issues see the experiment effectively shut down, someone neglected to ever take Joe (Wilson, My Super Ex-Girlfriend) and Rita out of their respective chambers. It isn't until the year 2505 that they are finally released, 500 years into a future, where intelligence has degraded to the point where Joe and Rita have gone from possessing average intelligence to becoming the smartest people on Earth.  Busted for not having proper identification, Joe is immediately charged with several felonies, although the President (Crews, The Longest Yard) sees an opportunity to save the struggling society by utilizing Joe's intellect.  Trouble is, he doesn't have much time to prove he can save the people of the world from their own apocalyptic devolution.

Being that Judge's previous effort, Office Space, has become something of a cult phenomenon over the years on home video, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the same fate potentially awaits Idiocracy.  In my humble opinion, I believe that both films are, as a whole, greater than the sum of their parts, primarily entertaining because of the choice key bits of hilarity and satire that, when strung along successfully, manage to make them very funny to quote from, despite the fact that they aren't really brilliant ideas in and of themselves.  Portions of the film are laugh-out-loud funny, but in between, it's all merely a set-up for the next skit-like segment built on the same premise.  Luckily, there are enough clever moments to justify the rather silly plot for the sake of the comedy, and some of the rips at contemporary society, particularly in the corporate advertising (not a stitch of clothing isn't fully emblazoned with various corporate logos) and the trivializing of basic human values for the sake of profit (water has been replaced in everything but toilets by a Gatorade-like sports drink), is broad but plays well for the brand of comedy that this is.

Idiocracy may not be a great satire, but it can be acutely funny, while also amiable enough to endure even through the occasional lulls. There are many moments that people with like-minded senses of humor will quote from for years (I've already started myself by saying, "Welcome to Costco.  I love you." in mocking reference to the disingenuous door greeters).  Judge nails the first half hour, building enough momentum to coast most of the rest of the way, though the final half hour, which plays like an over-the-top action flick, offers very few moments of actual humor or interest.  At only 84 minutes, it's not an ordeal by any means, and the several solid chuckles lampooning the state of out potential future, as well as the ludicrous way we entertain ourselves (there is a TV show called, "Ow! My Balls", which is nothing but home video footage of people getting injured in the crotch --  remember, this from the man who brought us "Beavis and Butthead"), ultimately prove worth the effort.

Idiocracy a fun film for those who laugh at, or perhaps lament, the sorry state of our society, where reading is increasingly being deemed by youth culture as passť, popular entertainment has nearly no emphasis on story (Judge portrays films of the future as nothing but shots of bare asses that occasionally fart, which the audience finds consummately entertaining), and people can't speak intelligently without being labeled as uppity snobs.  Within the course of the film, these outlandish observations are hilarious -- at least until we walk outside and see the real-life Idiocracy that threatens to slowly envelop us into oblivion.

Qwipster's rating

©2006 Vince Leo