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Idiocracy

dir: Mike Judge
[img_assist|nid=808|title=USA! USA! US - ow! my balls|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
You may think stupid people are making this a harder place to live on a daily basis, but can you imagine a planet of morons where intelligence has been bred out of our species entirely? Can you imagine using that as a premise for a comedy / sci fi flick?

Well, Mike Judge, creator of King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead and director of Office Space, uses it as his main contention here. In Idiocracy, we have a look at an American future where IQs are around 60 and people are so fucking stupid that the most popular television show in world history is Ow, My Balls!, a show where a guy gets whacked in the balls repeatedly, and the number one film at the box office is Ass, a 90 minute film of an arse farting.

Wait a second, that doesn’t sound too much different from the America of today, does it?

It’s hardly a sly, satirical take on the dumbing down of contemporary culture. There’s not a subtle thing about the whole film. The future, as depicted, is horrifyingly stupid. There are no smart people left, and anyone who can string a sentence together is called a fag. I mean literally they’re called fags. People can’t understand even basic concepts, and accept advertising slogans as fact. And advertising has degenerated to the point where billboards actually say “If you don’t smoke Tarryltons, Then FUCK YOU!”

It sounds like it would be a scenario rich with comic possibilities, but I’m lucky if I cracked it for a smile more than twice. That being said, it’s a mildly amusing premise, and the flick’s only 80 minutes long, so it’s not like it’s going to tax anyone too harshly.

Despite an abundance of cheap CGI, the future as represented is pretty much like the present, only a bit uglier. Since there are no smart people designing or building things, infrastructure is falling apart but looks rundown rather than post-apocalyptic. It’s not the time and place to start getting into plotholes, as in, if people are too stupid to even realise why their food supply is dwindling, how have they survived this long, who runs the electricity grid, who flies the planes, who runs the television stations etc etc?

It really doesn’t bear thinking about. As well as the increasing stupidity, there’s an increased level of pornification / instant gratification as a commodity. Starbucks now gives half priced handjobs with your lattes, fried chicken comes with a blowjob and any other product you can think of comes with some form of sexual release.

Into this Brave, Stupid World comes Joe (Luke Wilson, the dull Wilson brother), who, as a result of an Army experiment gone awry has Rip Van Winkled five hundred years into the future. Before his story begins, we get a quick class in eugenics where the Origins of the Increased Stupidity of the Species (you’ve never read Charles Darwin’s follow up?) is clearly represented to us. A young, highly intelligent middle class couple are interviewed explaining how, in our present time, it’s not the right time for them to have kids. Simultaneously, some virtually retarded white trash morons are shown breeding like rabbits. The older the smart couple get, the further from fertility they get, until they eventually die without passing on their brilliant genes. By this time, the morons have multiplied a hundredfold. Thus is the future circumstance created: because smart people don’t have enough kids.

Again, it’s worthless getting agitated over the message in that intro, which the Third Reich would have been proud of, because I don’t think it’s a serious treatise. This is a flick, after all, where a guy keeps getting hit in the nuts to the delight of millions.

Joe, though average and mediocre in his own day, ends up being the smartest guy on the planet by dint of his 21st century education and quality white genes. Most of the people in the future cannot understand him when he speaks, though he can easily understand their monosyllabic expression. He ends up arrested and jailed because he lacks a particular mercantile tattoo, and because his lawyer Frito is even dumber than most (Dax Shepard) but easily outwits his captors and is eventually on the run. Believing something he hears about a time machine, he endeavours to find the time machine to travel back to his own time.

When the Powers That Be discover that he is, in comparison to them, a genius, the President (Terry Crews) tries to compel him to fix all the problems faced by their dumbtopian society.

The President, a former porn star and wrestler, insists Joe fix these problems or be destroyed. Joe knows little about anything, but confronts their primary problem (no food) head on. He discovers that these people are too stupid to realise that crops need water to grow. People of the future use water only in their toilets, and never for watering or even drinking. When Joe suggests using water, people are incredulous, muttering “you mean toilet water?” with undisguised horror.

Look, I know how silly this all is, but I’m not sure whether I can convey the entertainment value (or lack thereof) of the story. It’s funny, but only sporadically so, and is pretty unbelievable even for lite sci fi fare. If the purpose here is, as with elsewhere, to represent the foibles of contemporary society by setting a story in the future and taking things to their absolute extreme, then I guess it is science fiction. It’s just that it becomes as much a product of what it seems to be deriding as it is a criticism of it.

In other words, it is ridiculing a society (today’s America) for being so infantile and anti-intellectual: for electing George W. Bush president and for feverishly following the daily adventures of even greater morons like Britany Spears and Paris Hilton, yet delights in representing that mentality with depictions of how crude their entertainments are. In doing so, it produces the entertainments (a show about a guy getting hit in the nuts) and shows them to us, getting us to laugh at a guy getting hit in the nuts because we’re meant to be laughing at the morons in the film who are laughing at the guy getting hit in the nuts. But you’re still producing scenes where a guy is getting hit in the nuts. Do you spy my dilemma?

I hope you can see where I’m going with this, because there exists the possibility that I’m not as bright as I think I am and my analysis isn’t hitting its targets. I’ve never claimed to be a genius, or even a sub-genius, but I do try.

So maybe it is a scathing satire, I’m not sure. It’s sporadically amusing, but it never really feels like it’s going for the jugular, even with a few choice gags written into the script. I can imagine getting more laughs out of the flick if I were more drunk, but not if I were more sober.

View with caution, and very low expectations.

6 times at least that I detected ripped-off jokes from The Simpsons out of 10, not least of which is “Football in the groin”

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“Comin' up next on The Violence Channel: An all-new "Ow, My Balls!" – Idiocracy.

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