planet of the idiots

Last night I watched Idiocracy, the latest film by Mike Judge (Office Space).

It’s a pure science fiction idea: a man and a woman are frozen in a Government experiment and end up 500 years in the future. Except, it’s not the future of jet packs and equality, but of idiots and illiteracy. Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), a very average soldier, and Rita (Maya Rudolph) a prostitute on contract to the Government, become the smartest people in a future where the most popular TV show is “Ow My Balls!” (yes, the guy gets hit in the crotch in a variety of ways).

It’s a viciously satirical portrayal of the state of popular culture in the USA, and underlying it all you can sense Judge’s seething frustration and resentment at the dumbing down of America.

I laughed a lot while watching the film, but it was spiked with moment of depression as I considered the points Judge made in the film. Judge pushes the credibility envelope for laughs, but imagines a future in which thuggish, stupid, violent behaviour rules, and intelligence has vanished. There are some wonderful (scary) notions: the FDA has been bought out by a company that manufactures soda, and no one drinks water anymore; hospitals are administered by morons who push simple icon buttons to treat patients; mountains of garbage cover the wrecked and patched cities; and a political system where you can win a cabinet position in the White House in a contest. The plot is simple and somewhat formulaic, but I think that’s a deliberate decision to offset the difficulty the audience might have with the demented world Judge examines in the film.

It’s not surprising that this film was released with no publicity or support. Like good satire, the film tricks you into thinking about the worst by making you laugh. It’s only 84-minutes long, which is perfect for a comedy. Judge doesn’t belabour his points, or lapse into peachiness. Idiocracy has a couple of minor problems (the narrative voiceover didn’t work for me at times, and it’s a little episodic in places), but overall it’s an entertaining, and provocative, film.