I’m not a huge fan of comedy movies. Other than the classics like Blazing Saddles, Airplane, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, movies that are strictly comedies usually fall flat for me. Maybe I’m just a grumpy asshole, but a majority of Hollywood comedy movies are just an hour and a half of farts, people getting hit in the balls, and “jokes” about sex, and I find none of that funny. There’s only a handful of on-screen sex jokes that are actually funny, because they craft some sort of set up and punchline. Y’know, like, they’re actually jokes. A prime example would be the “Woah, bumpy road ahead!” joke from the first season of Arrested Development. George Michael is a hormone riddled teenager who has a weird crush on his cousin Maeby. When riding in the car, Maeby needs to sit on George Michael’s lap to make space. Michael Bluth exclaims there’s a bumpy road ahead, and we get to see the dread in George Michael’s eyes. Set up. Punchline. It’s simple, but it works. It’s not just “hurr durr, look at boners because a girl is hot. Get it? Boners are funny because penis.”
So now I’m going to write about a movie I enjoyed that was an hour and a half of farts, people getting hit in the balls, and “jokes” about sex.
Idiocracy is a satirical comedy by Mike Judge, creator of comedy marvels such as Office Space and the long running TV show King of the Hill. That sounds super sarcastic, but I legitimately love both of those. They are pretty divisive, so if you hate them, just pretend it was scathing sarcasm and I’m actually really funny.
Idiocracy follows the story of the world’s most average Joe (literally) who is frozen in a military experiment, only to wake up 500 years in the future. Now he needs to figure out how to find a way back to his time, but oh no! Everyone in the future is stupid! The movie opens with a case study following two families, one where the average IQ is said to be about 130 and the other where the average IQ is about 85. Now I know that IQ is a terrible way to quantify how smart someone is and having a higher IQ can still mean you can still be really fucking stupid, but for the sake of this review, characters with a high IQ are going to be called smart, and characters with low IQs will be called stupid. It shows that the stupid family reproduces much more than the smart family, spreading their stupid genes to the new generation who then go out and pop out babies like crazy. Scaling this up to a national level, by the year 2505, everyone is just a fucking idiot. The science doesn’t really check out, but whatever.
So, I’m going to preface this by stating right now: Idiocracy is not laugh out loud funny. It’s one of those movies you just kind of vaguely smile through, or let out a quick “heh” every now and again. The directing is okay, the acting is passable, and the written punchlines are alright, but where this movie really shines is in it’s more subtle jokes, and in it’s double decker dish of satire. Most of the jokes rely on “look, look how dumb everyone is! They are stupid and don’t know how to spell words!”, but to me, the jokes about rampant consumerism and taking stereotypical American culture up to 11 are what work. Idiocracy is a more extreme version of John Carpenter’s They Live.
Subtler jokes like whenever anyone holds up a drink, it’s always the most disgustingly huge cup of pop, or that everyone’s clothes are covered in advertisements and company logos. How a triage nurse at a hospital needs to hit a button with a picture of an injury on it to determine what treatment is needed. How when a TV is shown, half the screen is just constant ads. That last one sounds like a terrible joke, not really having a set up or punch line until you realize something: The set up is real life (#2deep4me, amirite?). Look at the state of advertisements today. Let’s say some big film studio announces they’ve released a new teaser trailer for whatever movie they’re going to release. So you go to YouTube, one of this era’s greatest media platforms, and watch the teaser. Sounds innocent enough, right? Until you realize there’s an ad for Subway before the 15 second teaser which itself is an advertisement for the theatrical trailer which is coming out in a week which is an advertisement for a movie that probably has blatant product placement in it (ie: another advertisement). Now the punchline to that joke makes sense. Let’s examine this scene a little more. The show the particular character is watching is called “Ow, My Balls!”. A show where a guy constantly gets hit in the balls. Fucking hilarious. Obviously it’s to show that stupid people in the future will laugh at lowest common denominator humor, and gee, isn’t it funny that such dumb shows exist in the future? Literally 3 or 4 hours before watching this movie, my girlfriend and I were at a restaurant and the TV at the bar was showing a program called Careless Teens. The only thing we caught a glimpse of before they changed the channel was one asshole kid whipping another in the face with a leather belt. Fucking hilarious.
Now, before you call me out for being an edgy, angsty, counter-culture hipster, remember that I used to run a site where I literally wrote advertisements for bands I liked so they could gain more traction, fans, and money. Also, while I like the dystopian future satire in Idiocracy, there’s a level deeper that I really think elevates this movie. In the second half of the film, Joe says “I think maybe the world got like this because of people like me.” It’s such an offhand line spoken by the future’s smartest man, but it’s really what the movie is about. It’s not supposed to be something you can throw around and say “Idiocracy is turning from a comedy into a documentary, the world is so fucked up, bro!”, it’s designed to make fun of the people who say things like that too. That to me is the real message the film is trying to give. Lots of people, regardless of how smart or dumb they are, think they’re smarter than everyone else and that they can, like, see through all the corporate bullshit, man. Don’t just sit back and say “well everybody is dumb except for me, and that’s why everything sucks.” Sit back and say “everything sucks, and I’m a competent adult human being. How can I help make things better?” I wish this point was driven home a little more in the movie, but the fact that it’s there at all turns this from just a silly comedy about the excess of western culture, into a silly comedy about the excess of western culture that actually offers an interesting perspective on how a world like that could actually happen.
I’m really good at rambling, apparently. On a cinematic level, Idiocracy is insanely average, although some of the sets and matte paintings/ digital backgrounds are really well done. My main gripe with the movie is that I feel it would work better as a short film. The satire is great, but majority of the running time is fluffed with jokes about how dumb and naive the average future-American is. It’s funny the first couple times to see someone act totally idiotic, but after repeating the same jokes over and over, it starts to get tedious. Judge’s commentary and satire is top notch though, and were this movie maybe 30 or 40 minutes long, I would file this one away with classic satires on American culture like John Carpenter’s They Live and Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop. While this is by no means a classic, Mike Judge continues to impress me with his writing and biting sense of humor. If you like his other works, you might just like Idiocracy too. Give it a watch, and let me know what you think of it.