Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 12 January 2007
Source Fox DVD
Mike Judge’s Idiocracy takes place some five hundred years in the future. Trash is everywhere—mountains of it. Brands are dominant, even clothing is smothered in a variety of logos and issued out of boxes like disposable Kleenex. The president is a former wrestler and wears the presidential seal in the form of a rather unwieldy plaque that hangs around his neck (as does his cabinet). Prices have certainly inflated – a side of fries costs around two thousand dollars – but the scenario is not one of impoverishment. It is filthy and uncultured, to be sure, but not impoverished.
It is also not dystopian, which is significant as film often houses more rotundly ominous visions of the future. Despite the fact that the mean IQ has plummeted – speech is now delivered in incomplete sentences punctuated by guttural inflections – people are generally peaceful. There are guns, but what violence this scenario retains is prescribed as entertainment—at a gladiator-like monster truck rally, or in Ow! My Balls! , the most popular show on television. What fissured international relations this future has retained is not apparent. At least, the headline on the latest Naked Chicks & World Report (“Shit Sucks!”) seems to indicate a general malaise and not the latest scuffles in international diplomacy.
There is, however, an implicit argument to Judge’s future. Leisure has dissolved any incentive in maintenance, and slogans have become commandments. People are even named after the products they buy. Brawndo (the “Thirst Mutilator”) is a sports energy drink whose major competitor was water. Thusly, they bought out water. The stuff now pumps through irrigation systems, and through water fountains. Crops everywhere die. In a rather unnerving instance, a mother wields a bottle filled with Brawndo toward the lips of her infant child as he frantically swings his arms to remove the undesired nipple from his lips. This child is equivalent to every living person on earth, defenseless in the face of the corporations that malnourish his planet.
The only option for redemption is Joe Bowers, a military private from the present renowned for his average physique and average demeanor—he is a quantifiable mean on every measure of human physicality or intelligence. He is enlisted to participate in a government hibernation program, and scheduled to emerge from a chemical-induced sleep exactly one year in the future. Instead, he sleeps for five centuries, and rubs the crust out of his eyes to find the redundant charms of Ow! My Balls! and the landslide of garbage that has enabled his awakening.
Whereas other futures hinge upon some concept of correction, Idiocracy’s is distinguished for its indifference. There may be a conflict, but it is not an urgent concern to anyone. Joe, having been instated on the presidential cabinet for gaining an uncommonly high score on an IQ test, announces his plan for improvement, which is to simply replace Brawndo with water in irrigation systems. There are no immediate results, millions of Brawndo employees lose their jobs, and the populace demands to punish him at a monster truck rally. Excitement distinguishes these people, not patience. Of course, Joe’s simple motives are honorable if not initially welcomed, and he is too good-natured a protagonist in too good-natured a film to be punished. But Idiocracy’s conclusion is of little to criticize, as its true ingenuity is its concept.
There is an inherent irony in most any description of the film, in voices that come off as “pompous and faggy” as Joe’s to his Neanderthaloid companions. It is flawed – knowledge of Judge’s difficulty in producing it amplifies some of the later, more ill-fit scenes – but admirable. Idiocracy’s utter lack of promotion (it was released in exactly twenty-five US cities with only a poster in tow) is now something of a minor legend, and it remains perplexing given the film’s obvious charms. It lies, finally, an infant left at your doorstep, crying for embracement.