Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 24 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language and Sex-related Humor
Directed by: Mike Judge
Written by: Mike Judge, Etan Cohen
Starring: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, Anthony Campos, David Herman, Justin Long, Thomas Haden Church, Stephen Root
Idiots. The world is full of them. Turn on the news, read a blog, or (God forbid) do a search on YouTube if you want some recent examples of stupidity that pops up in our society again and again. IDIOCRACY (Mike Judge’s third feature film) was promptly shelved and then dumped into an extremely limited theatrical release by the studio that financed it (Fox). This is a pity on so many levels. One of which being that this sci-fi comedy has some startling, funny, and depressing points to make about the future of mankind. It’s not without faults, but I guarantee you haven’t seen anything quite like this film before and you probably won’t see anything like it again.
In the present day, Joe Bauers has been selected for a top-secret army experiment. The reason he’s been chosen isn’t that Joe is a genius, but he’s the most average man in every category and doesn’t have any pesky living relatives to ask questions. He’s frozen in cryogenic sleep and through human error, wakes up 500 years in the future. Joe makes the shocking discovery that everything has been dumbed down to ridiculous levels. Joe is now the smartest man in the world and must deal with this whole new stupid society.
The depiction of why humanity’s IQ suddenly dropped is terrifying, because it’s so true. Smart people think things through before they decide to have kids, dumb people don’t. How many huge white trash families do you see with tons of kids running wild around the supermarket? It’s altogether depressing to think about and director/writer Mike Judge knows this. He tends to keep things as upbeat and wacky as possible, despite the arguable accuracy of his vision of the future. A whole lot of creativity permeates through every frame. Careful attention has been paid to small details that bring this world to life. Shameless product placement has been turned into a punchline, rather than obvious marketing towards certain companies. I can’t imagine that you’ll want to visit Costco, Starbucks, or Carl’s Jr. after watching IDIOCRACY, because of how the movie portrays each of these chains. Also, I doubt you’ll want to chug an energy drink (which is preferable to water in this future) either.
With all of the scathing satire taken into account, IDIOCRACY comes dangerously close to wearing out its welcome. Some of the characters and humor are a little too obnoxious. Luke Wilson is a decent enough leading man here. I always seem to get the impression that he’s the less talented or charismatic Wilson brother. His performance didn’t do much to change my mind. However, seeing as his character is a perfectly average guy, it seemed like ideal casting (no major disrespect to Luke Wilson). Dax Shepherd also overplayed his role of an idiotic lawyer to the point of teetering on the annoying side, rather than a lovable doofus that the script tries to make him out to be. Maya Rudolph is the worst character here and the less said about her performance, the better. A few big name actors do pop up in short roles as the future morons, these include Justin Long, Stephen Root, and Thomas Haden Church. Finally, there’s Terry Crews and he’s without a doubt hilarious to watch. As a wrestler-elected-president, Crews is having a blast and it’s infectious to the viewer as well.
The finale also falls into a predictable territory, where the viewer is pretty much just waiting for things to follow the exact manner that they do wind up playing out in. With all of this being said, Mike Judge does hit the nail on the head very well in little details and lots of scenes are scathingly funny. We’ve all met people who resemble some traits of this future folk and it’s horrifying accurate to think that the planet might some day wind up in an idiotic dystopian world. Again, I did like how fleshed out this world was. Tone wise, the film feels like a 70’s sci-fi film that’s been injected with a good dose of humor alongside the relevant social commentary.
IDIOCRACY is far from Mike Judge’s best work (OFFICE SPACE and KING OF THE HILL), but it’s also earned the cult status surrounding it. What’s even more telling is that the studio dumped this film in a terrible manner and yet movies like TRANSFORMERS still get huge releases. This move could be viewed as another step closer to IDIOCRACY’s predicted future of people paying to see a 90-minute movie titled Ass or watching “Ow, My Balls!” on TV every evening. As playful as it is satirical, IDIOCRACY is recommended for those wanting out of the ordinary laughs or are curious about taking a look into a possible terrifying future where smart people are an endangered species.