Regular readers of Backstage know that movie and music recommendations are rare here, but after watching Idiocracy last night, and wanting to re-watch it this morning, I had to make an exception. It’s a Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead) film, and like its predecessors, a comedy about our increasingly dumbed-down society. The hook: it takes place in the future, and it’s actually funny. In quick summary, the main character Joe’s in suspended animation for 500 years, and wakes up to discover the world hasn’t evolved, but rather devolved into idiocy, laziness, and poor taste.
The most popular channel is the Violence Channel, with a TV show called “Ow! My Balls!”—just one example of Judge’s masterful use of crass humor. While the population sits around all day in combination recliners, toilets, and feeding tubes watching ads mixed with monster truck rallies and Fox News, everything’s on the verge of collapsing, and Joe’s now the smartest man alive.
There’s a reason you probably haven’t heard about Idiocracy. Fox financed the film, then killed it (with an extended post-production delay, the most limited of theatrical releases, and no promotion at all). Put aside the Fox News parody, which the company surely didn’t mind (much). If you look at the movie’s extensive mockery of big brand names—Starbucks and H&R Block have become adult massage parlors (serving Hot and Full-Body Lattes, and the “Gentleman’s Rebate”)—and copious scenes where Gatorade marketing is implicitly blamed for destroying the country’s use of water, then search the few articles that were written about its brief, almost secret run in theaters, it’s obvious that Fox was threatened by at least one mega-corporation and dumped the movie in fear.
It would be an understatement to call that unfortunate. Beyond the satire, which is non-stop (and worthy of pauses or re-viewings to see additional corporate logos and tainted slogans hidden on shirts, signs, and packaging), Luke Wilson’s portrayal of Joe is great, and I can’t think of two minutes that went by without a laugh. It’s actually funnier and more widely accessible than the cult classic Office Space, though the laughs aren’t always as deep. Given that the DVD can be had through Amazon for under $10, it’s seriously worth picking up—that’s where I ordered my copy when the two Target locations I visited were actually fully sold out of it.
One bonus for Apple fans: You might recognize “I’m a Mac” Justin Long in his brief role as Dr. Lexus, a future doctor whose recommended, nonsensical Valley Dude treatment for a freshly awakened Joe is to “like, y’know, heh heh, y’know what I mean, heh heh heh.” If you’d assume from his shirt, the other ads in his office, or past Beavis and Butthead experience that this meant anything in particular, the answer’s probably “no.” Like many of the other jokes, which I’m omitting here to avoid spoilers, it’s just a statement as to how bad things could become, and a hint that we’re seeing things go that way already. Laughing at it is a good start to fixing it.