Mike Judge's Idiocracy Reviewed: Too Stupid To Be Funny
by Alex Billington
October 26, 2006
Mike Judge, the creative mind behind Office Space, "Beavis and Butthead," and "King of the Hill," has a new comedy called Idiocracy in theaters. Almost no one has heard of this film because 20th Century Fox, the production and distribution company behind it, decided not to give it a wide release. Instead it got a very quiet release into some 200 theaters about a month ago in just six cities around North America. After finally catching Idiocracy in Pasadena, California, I can unfortunately agree with Fox's decision to keep it under wraps. Idiocracy was just too stupid of a comedy, ironically with a plot about the world becoming stupid, to measure up to the year's best comedies. Although Mike Judge is incredibly creative, Idiocracy doesn't seem to have the cult appeal that made Office Space a sleeper hit on DVD.
The premise behind Idiocracy is stupidly simple: two people, an "average joe" from the military named Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), and a prostitute named Rita (Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph), are frozen in a military project. When the project's director gets arrested, the entire thing is scrapped, and the pods, which were supposed to only be frozen for one year, are left in rubble for 500 years. As time passes the human race becomes progressively dumber: all water is replaced by an energy drink called Brawndo, "Ow My Balls" is the most popular show on television, and the President is a wrestling champion who slams down beers while driving his three-wheel motorcycle. After Joe's and Rita's pods thaw, these 2000s-era protagonists realize that they are the smartest people on the planet - and must deal with the ridiculously dumb population to escape being thrown in jail.
Idiocracy has a few scenes and concepts that are quite funny in retrospect (such as "Brawndo, The Thirst Mutilator"), but the film is so ridiculously stupid that it can never achieve any lasting comedic moments. One of the standout concepts is the largest Costco ever, about the size of an entire state, that's so huge it has its own subway-like transportation system and greets shoppers with "Welcome to Costco, I love you." Besides Joe and Rita, every single person is a big, dumb idiot that's barely able to speak comprehensible English. Beyond just a few of those genuine Mike Judge moments, there are only few laughs in Idiocracy.
Dax Shepard put in one of the worst performances of his career as Frito, the first 26th-century man that Joe meets and befriends. I don't know how hard it is to play a completely idiotic person, or in Luke Wilson's case an average idiotic person, but neither man played his role well. The only redeeming part of Idiocracy is Maya Rudolph's attractive short-skirt-clad Rita, even without a single comedic line. Idiocracy is so cheesy that narration accompanies many of its scenes just to explain where the story is going.
As happened with Office Space, I think that Idiocracy may find a niche audience when it's released on DVD. That said, I still find Idiocracy to be an overly stupid comedy that definitely does not compare favorably to Office Space, the forthcoming Borat film, or any of the other great comedies out there. I applaud Mike Judge for making something unique and original, but this one won't go far even when it does get a wide DVD release.
When absolutely everyone in the world is stupid, there's no opportunity to make great comedy. Idiocracy is an unfortunate failure both in Fox's decision to keep it quiet and in Mike Judge's rather lackluster follow-up to his typical greats. There are a number of other much greater full-release comedies out there, including the hilarious Borat movie, that would be a better choice even on DVD. Idiocracy's comedy does have a unique Mike Judge touch, and may get its cult following eventually, but it still doesn't earn a place in the collection of greatest comedies of all time.