I’m not even being sarcastic. ‘Idiocracy’ is the smartest film ever made. Before I get into the ‘how and why’, it’s important that you know the plot if you haven’t seen this film. If you haven’t seen the film, I would suggest seeing it before you read this review and then the reasoning will become apparent.
In an opening section that sets the scene, it shows how a middle class and intelligent couple contemplate having children over and over again but are ultimately unsuccessful. Their reasons are many including ‘the market’, the lady’s husband having a low sperm count and then her husband dying. Whilst on the flip-side, a notably less intelligent couple from some backwater town in the American south keep pumping out babies at an alarming speed.
Then we meet our protagonist, average man, Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) who is a United States Army librarian and likes his job because basically he gets paid for doing nothing. To his dismay, he’s selected for an army experiment where he and one other will be placed into suspended animation for one year as a test run. If it’s successful, then the scientists will know that they can freeze some of the best and most important people in the world. Joe’s fellow test subject is Rita (Maya Rudolph) who is a prostitute and was selected due to the commanding officer, Collins (Mike McCafferty) having an affiliation with her pimp, ‘Upgrayedd’ (Brad ‘Scarface’ Johnson). This affiliation leads to Collins being arrested for attempting to orchestrate a prostitution ring.
In the ensuing scandal, the base where Joe and Rita are being held in their suspended animation pods is demolished. No one knows that Joe and Rita are in there because the experiment was ‘Top Secret’.
500 years pass and the average intelligence of the population of the United States at least drops dramatically. All of the smart people died out because they didn’t procreate and the trashy, dumb people kept pumping out more kids. Joe is forced to adjust to the new world where stupid people reign and their incompetence is causing them to live in a dystopian world. So basically, it’s really sandy, everyone’s poor and the crumbling buildings are tied together with string.
‘Idiocracy’ is directed by Mike Judge of ‘Beavis and Butthead’ fame; he also came up with the story and he along with Etan Cohen wrote the script. Although the film is meant to be a comedy, the basis of the plot seems to have roots here in reality. Remember, this was 2005 when this was made.
There’s something to be said about the levels of social commentary in ‘Idiocracy’ that can be based on how we live today. For example, the top television show in the ‘Idiocracy’ universe is called ‘Ow! My Balls!” which entirely features one man getting kicked in the balls and then subsequently injuring his crotch in a number of increasingly ludicrous ways. Meanwhile, in our universe, one of the top-rated TV shows from the early 2000’s was ‘Jackass’ which spawned 3 series of a TV show and 3 movies (not counting ‘Bad Grandpa’). The point being that if you take all of the ‘dick-kicking’ segments from ‘Jackass’ (of which there are many) and cut and paste them into a TV show, it might as well be called ‘Ow! My Balls!’. I’m not saying I hate Jackass. I love Jackass. But there is a comparison to be made.
Another aspect that ‘Idiocracy’ touched upon was the deterioration of the English Language. To quote the film, the language had become ‘a hybrid of Hillbilly, Valley Girl, Inner City Slang and various grunts’. All you have to do is watch any given reality show and see that this particular trend is already starting to happen. I personally went to a school where learning was actively discouraged among the pupils and any kids who wanted to learn and could already read and write above their year were targets of bullying. By my estimate, it won’t be long until children stop learning how to talk in complete sentences. We’re already at a state where schools across the world have stopped teaching handwriting (cursive) to primary school children in favour of teaching them how to type on keyboards. I don’t care what anyone says, handwriting is an essential skill. Teaching kids how to use computers is fine, especially in this day and age but writing and ultimately, reading are essential life skills and kids need to know this stuff.
The world of ‘Idiocracy’ also has something to say about how advertising and major corporations fucked up the world. Joe and Rita are accompanied by their new friend, Frito (Dax Shepard) who is taking them to a time machine, and they take a short cut through a ‘Costco’ store that spans for miles. The number one drink that dominates the market is something called ‘Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator’ that employs half the country and bought out the FDA and the FCC which gave them free reign over where Brawndo was used and sold. Brawndo is used in replacement of water to wash cars, feed babies and water the crops because ‘it’s got what plants need, it’s got electrolytes’. Despite not knowing what ‘electrolytes’ are but it’s a big word that sounds smart, they use it to water the plants but the ‘electrolytes’ are actually salts that killed the crops and created the dust cloud that smothered the food supplies. To the stupid people of 2505, water is something that’s in the toilet.
Since Joe took an aptitude test when he was put in prison for not paying his hospital bill and the questions were ridiculously easy, Joe is dubbed the smartest man in the world and given a job in the White House as the ‘Secretary of the Interior’ under former wrestler turned Leader of the Free World, President Dwayne Elizando Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crewes).
To be honest, I’ve seen this myself. Growing up in the UK in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, the people that I saw on TV were people who were talented and were smart. People who were famous for being talented. Not famous for sod all. You know those ‘celebrity reality shows’? ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ and ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here’? These days, I couldn’t name half of the faces in those shows and I’m willing to bet good money that a few of them only became celebrities because they were on a reality show which is cheating.
I’ve lost my thread.
Oh, yeah. Idiocracy is showing some worrying signs of our future as a species but it’s not perfect. The concept of morons reigning the Earth is a little bit flawed. For example, I don’t think a population as apocalyptically stupid as the people in the film could live day to day without killing themselves. Presumably, as the population devolved back down the evolutionary scale, common sense went away as well.
There are some things that we know we shouldn’t do because they’re dangerous and will hurt us. There’s something called ‘Darwinism’ that must come into play at some point. ‘Survival of the fittest’ or in this case, ‘Survival of the Smartest’. That’s how it’s supposed to work. There are stupid people who do stupid things and they don’t see the danger. Some live to tell the tale and others don’t. There are ‘bargain basement’ stupid things like drinking hot coffee whilst not realising that it’s meant to be hot and burning the roof of your mouth and then there are really stupid things like scaling huge buildings with no safety equipment. You know what I mean?
Let’s have a look at the figures.
‘Idiocracy’ was not given a wide release in the US and in fact, the release date for the film was delayed on several occasions. The reason? I don’t know. Nevertheless, just over 1 year after the original release date, ‘Idiocracy’ premiered on September 1st, 2006 at 130 theatres in 7 cities and only to the public, not for critics.
‘Idiocracy’ took in $444,093 in the Domestic box office and $51,210 in the International box office making a grand total of $495,303 against a $2 – 4 Million budget. That’s not good. Having said that, the film did much better when it was released on Home Media just 5 months later on January 9th, 2007 with $9 Million earned in DVD rentals. It’s fair to say that it’s made its money back.
This is my final word. Mike Judge is a very smart man whose made some brilliant shows over the years and whilst ‘Idiocracy’ may have been made to satirise the world that was 14 years ago and give a theoretical view of the future for comedic effect, it seems that in the subsequent 14 years we’ve been heading down the same road. Pointless and idiotic people are becoming the norm and role models for future generations. Intelligence may be in the genes, but part of it lies in the society. We’re only as good as the people we interact with and indeed the people we look up to. The world needs more scientists and doctors to cure the world’s diseases and sort out world hunger and if that’s not your thing then just some decent people to teach their children not to make the same mistakes that we’ve made and be sensible when it comes to life. We need to provide a better future for the next generation on this planet.
Is this getting too preachy? Here’s a funny word to finish on – ARSE!