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Idiocracy

Idiocracy

Idiocracy is a 2006 American dark comedy directed by Mike Judge, and starring Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. The two main characters sign up for a military hibernation experiment that goes awry, and they awaken 500 years in the future. They discover that the world has devolved into a dystopia where marketing, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism run rampant and dysgenic pressure has resulted in a uniformly stupid human society.

Despite its lack of a major theatrical release, the film has achieved something of a cult following because of its satire of the “dumbing down” of contemporary society and the breakdown of individual responsibility and consequences.

Synopsis

A narrator explains that natural selection is indifferent to intelligence, so that in a society in which intelligence is systematically debased, stupid people easily out-breed the intelligent, creating, over the course of five centuries, an irremediably dysfunctional society. Demographic superiority favours those least likely to advance society. Consequently, the children of the educated élites are drowned in a sea of sexually promiscuous, illiterate, alcoholic, proletarian peers.

In 2005, Corporal Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), a US Army librarian graphed as the Army's "most average" soldier, and Rita (Maya Rudolph), a prostitute terrified of her pimp, Upgrayedd (pronounced: up•grade, two D's for "a double-dose of his pimping"), are guinea pigs in a secret, year-long, military hibernation project. They are sealed in their hibernation chambers, to be awakened a year later, but the experiment is forgotten when the officer in charge, Lieutenant Colonel Collins (Michael McCafferty), is arrested for having started his own prostitution ring under the tutelage of Upgrayedd. The military base is demolished, and a Fuddruckers (eventually devolving into Buttfuckers) is built on the site.

Five hundred years in the future, their hibernation chambers are jarred open in the 'Great Garbage Avalanche of 2505', reviving both of them. Joe crashes into the apartment of Frito Pendejo (Dax Shepard), a typical, idiot citizen of the U.S. future, with an apartment full of junk food and a prominent, giant television that is covered with adverts. His name, Frito Pendejo is a haphazard combination of a product mascot (Frito Bandito) and the Spanish slang word insult.

Joe is disoriented: in brief conversation Frito insults Joe's "more advanced" manner of speaking as "faggy"; in hospital, slacker Dr Lexus, MD (Justin Long), diagnoses him as simply "'tarded" and "fucked up". Dr Lexus panics on discovering that Joe has no barcode-tattoo on his left wrist, and so cannot be scanned for automatic debit payment from his bank account. Having noticed that the date of a magazine he finds on the doctor's desk (Hot Naked Chicks and World Report, 3 March 2505) is the same date indicated on his bill, Joe finally grasps that 500 years have passed since the Army put him in stasis. He is disturbed by the sights of the collapsing world, and flees the hospital, only to be arrested at a Carl's Jr. junk food vending booth for not paying his hospital bill and for not having a barcode tattoo.

At trial, Joe's public defense lawyer ("Attornee at Law") is Frito Pendejo, Esq., who stupidly helps convict him, citing the prosecutor's insistence that Joe is guilty and his own anger at Joe for getting garbage in his apartment. Joe is imprisoned; a poorly-designed I.D.-tattoo machine re-names Joe as "Not Sure" (because he is not sure about his name as it appears on some form) and barcode-tattoos him as such. During a mandatory (and very simple) I.Q. test, Joe grasps just how stupid humanity has become. Easily escaping his dim jailors, Joe returns to Frito's apartment, asking him if a time machine exists to help him return to the past, to 2005. Frito claims there is one, but agrees to help only after Joe promises him billions of dollars in interest on a bank account that Joe will open in the past on his return.

En route to the time machine, Joe and Frito find Rita. She does not know that she's been asleep for 500 years until Joe tells her, and even then, she thinks Upgrayedd will find her. Frito leads them to a city-sized Costco, where Joe is re-arrested when he accidentally scans his barcode; instead of prison, Joe is delivered to the White House. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews) has seen Joe's I.Q. test (scoring him as the most intelligent man in the world) and recruits him as Secretary of the Interior to correct the United States' food and crop shortages, dust bowl, crippled economy, mountains of garbage, and related matters. The other cabinet members are lampoons of contemporary politicians — nepotism, corporate loyalty corruption, and over-emphasis on sex appeal in political media coverage.

Joe learns that water has been replaced with Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator, a drink advertised as "rich in electrolytes", for virtually every purpose, including crop irrigation. Water is only used in toilets. Over time, the electrolytes in Brawndo accumulated in the soil, killed the crops, and caused the food shortage. After Joe reintroduces the practice of watering crops, the Brawndo Corporation's stock becomes worthless, causing great unemployment without visibly improving the crop situation. The angry populace riot, and Joe is sentenced to a day of "rehabilitation", an execution disguised as a public demolition derby, billed as "Monday Night Rehabilitation". Meanwhile, Rita discovers that Joe's reintroduction of watering the soil has made crops sprout in the fields. To save Joe, with Frito Pendejo in tow, she bribes a television cameraman to show the thriving crops to the world. Before reaching the crop field, Frito and the cameraman are distracted by a sale at a Starbucks chain brothel franchise; only after they quarrel and fight does Frito remember his duty and film the crop sprouts. President Camacho sees the thriving new plants on the stadium's big-screen televisions, and grants Joe a pardon just as he is about to be incinerated with a flamethrower.

At the celebration, Joe decides to stay and help repair American civilization; President Camacho names him Vice President of America. He also learns that the "Time Masheen" is just an amusement park history ride, wherein Charlie Chaplin was leader of the Nazi party who used dinosaurs to wage war on the world, and the U.N. (pronounced "The Un") "Un-Nazied the world forever". Joe serves a short term as Vice President, then is elected as Camacho's successor. Joe and Rita marry and have the world's three smartest children, while Frito Pendejo takes eight wives and fathers thirty-two of the world's stupidest children, echoing the introduction to the film.

After the credits, a third hibernation capsule is shown opening, releasing a snappily dressed Upgrayedd into the world, intent on tracking down Rita.

Cast

According to a radio interview with Mike Judge, he originally offered the cameo role of the Brawndo CEO to Office Space star Ron Livingston, but instead cast Thomas Haden Church because of scheduling conflicts.

Production

Early working titles included The United States of Uhh-merica and 3001. Filming took place during 2004 in and around the cities of Austin, San Marcos, Pflugerville, and Round Rock, Texas. Test screenings around March 2005 produced unofficial reports of poor audience reactions. After some re-shooting in the summer of 2005, a UK test screening in August produced a report of a positive impression.

Release issues

As of February 2005 the film's scheduled release date was August 5, 2005, according to Mike Judge. In April 2006, a release date was set for September 1, 2006. In August, numerous articles revealed that release was to be put on hold indefinitely. Idiocracy was released as scheduled but only in seven cities (Los Angeles, Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Mike Judge's hometown, Austin), and expanded to only 125 theaters, not the usual wide release of 2500-3000 theaters. According to the Austin American-Statesman, 20th Century Fox, the film's distributor, did nothing to promote the movie — while posters were released to theatres, no movie trailers, television ads, or press kits for media outlets were provided. The film was not screened for critics. Lack of concrete information from 20th Century Fox led to speculation that Fox may have actively tried to keep the film from being seen by a large audience, while fulfilling a contractual obligation for theatrical release ahead of a DVD release, according to Ryan Pearson of AP. In the New York Times Dan Mitchell argued that Fox might be shying away from a cautionary tale about low-intelligence dysgenics. This was a result of the film's anti-corporate message, noting that in the film Starbucks now delivers handjobs, and the motto of Carl's Jr. has devolved from "Don't Bother Me. I'm Eating." to "Fuck You! I'm Eating!" Also in the film, a Carl's Jr. vending machine cheats a customer, Fuddruckers' name gradually morphs into "Buttfuckers", the fictional Brawndo corporation buys the F.D.A. and the F.C.C, and the Fox News Channel is depicted in unflattering newscasts (20th Century Fox, which distributed the film, and the Fox News Channel are both owned by the Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corporation).

Reception

Idiocracy was not screened for critics. Its much-delayed release received no publicity and the film was initially distributed to only 130 screens.

Despite these troubles, the film received generally favorable reviews by critics. It received a 71% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes (from 38 reviews). Praise focused on concept, casting, and humor; the worst of the criticism was directed at the film's release issues, and some special effects and pacing problems.

Box office receipts totaled $444,093 in 135 theaters in the U.S.

Releases

The movie was released on DVD on January 9, 2007 with fullframe and widescreen aspect ratios, deleted scenes, English and Spanish spoken language tracks, and subtitles in English, Spanish, and French. So far it has earned $9 million on DVD rentals, over 20 times the limited theatrical release. On September 1, 2007 the film opened for cable and satellite viewers on the Cinemax premium channel, and started airing on HBO networks in January 2008.

Cult following

Despite the small release and lack of promotion, Idiocracy has grown to have a strong following. In 2007, Omni Consumer Products (named after the fictitious RoboCop corporation) introduced a real Brawndo energy drink. It is marketed online with a tongue-in-cheek YouTube advertisement featuring the voice of comedian Mark Little, inspired by one of the Picnicface sketches called "Powerthirst.

See also

References

External links

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