Idiocracy

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Idiocracy
Film poster in the style of Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" showing an imperfect slob
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mike Judge
Produced by Mike Judge
Elysa Koplovitz
Michael Nelson
Written by Mike Judge
Etan Cohen
Starring Luke Wilson
Maya Rudolph
Dax Shepard
Terry Alan Crews
Narrated by Earl Mann
Music by Theodore Shapiro
Cinematography Tim Suhrstedt
Edited by David Rennie
Production
company
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • September 1, 2006 (2006-09-01)
Running time 84 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2-4 million
Box office $495,303 (worldwide)[1]

Idiocracy is a 2006 American satirical science fiction comedy film directed by Mike Judge and starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, and Terry Crews. The film tells the story of two people who take part in a top-secret military hibernation experiment, only to awaken 500 years later in a dystopian society wherein advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism have run rampant and dysgenic pressure has resulted in a uniformly unthinking society devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights.

Despite its lack of a major theatrical release, the film has achieved a cult following.[2]

Plot[edit]

A U.S. Army librarian, Corporal Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), and a prostitute, Rita (Maya Rudolph), are selected for a suspended animation experiment on grounds of 'average' appearance, intelligence, behavior, etc. Rita's pimp "Upgrayedd" (Brad Jordan), has been bribed to allow her to take part. The experiment is forgotten when the officer in charge (Michael McCafferty) is arrested. Five hundred years later, Joe and Rita's suspension chambers are unearthed by the collapse of a mountain-sized garbage pile, and Joe's suspension chamber smashes through the wall of Frito Pendejo's (Dax Shepard) apartment, whose occupant expels him.

Joe, suspecting hallucination, enters a hospital. The former Washington, D.C. has lost most of its infrastructure, with people living in plastic huts called "domistile". The human population has become morbidly stupid, speak only low registers of English competently, and are profoundly anti-intellectual. Joe is arrested for not having a bar code tattoo to pay for his doctor's appointment, only then realizing the current year and society's state. At Joe's trial, Frito causes Joe to be sent to prison. Rita returns to her former profession.

Joe is renamed "Not Sure" by a faulty identity tattooing machine, and takes an I.Q. test before escaping. Once free Joe asks Frito whether a time machine exists to return himself to 2005, and Frito agrees to help after Joe promises to open a bank account under Frito's name in Joe's time, which will be worth billions by 2505. On the way to the time machine, Joe and Frito arrive at a gigantic Costco store, where a tattoo scanner identifies Joe as a fugitive. He is taken to the White House, where he is appointed Secretary of the Interior, on the grounds that his I.Q. test identified him as the most-intelligent man alive. In a speech, President Camacho (Terry Crews) gives Joe the job of fixing the nation's food shortages, dust bowls, and crippled economy within a week; whereafter Joe discovers that the nation's crops are irrigated with a sports drink named "Brawndo", whose eponymous parent corporation had purchased the FDA,FCC and USDA. When Joe has it replaced with water without visibly improving the crops, Brawndo's stock drops to zero, and half the population lose their jobs, causing mass riots.

Joe is sentenced to die in a monster truck demolition derby featuring undefeated "Rehabilitation Officer" Beef Supreme (Andrew Wilson), when Rita discovers that Joe's reintroduction of water to the soil has prompted vegetation in the fields. Frito shows the crops on the stadium's display screen, and Camacho gives Joe a full pardon, appointing him Vice President. Joe and Rita find that the time machine Frito spoke of is an inaccurate, history-themed amusement ride. Following Camacho's retirement, Joe is elected President. Joe and Rita marry and conceive the world's three smartest children, while Frito, now Vice President, takes eight wives and fathers 32 of the world's most stupid children. A post-credits scene shows a third suspension chamber releasing Upgrayedd, intent on tracking Rita down.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Early working titles included The United States of Uhh-merica[3] and 3001. Filming took place in 2004 on several stages at Austin Studios[4][5] and in the cities of Austin, San Marcos, Pflugerville, and Round Rock, Texas.[6]

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.[7]

Release[edit]

Idiocracy '​s original release date was August 5, 2005, according to Mike Judge.[8] In April 2006, a release date was set for September 1, 2006. In August, numerous articles[9] 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, Texas),[5] and expanded to only 130 theaters,[10] not the usual wide release of 600 or more theaters.[11] According to the Austin American-Statesman, 20th Century Fox, the film's distributor, was entirely absent in promoting the feature;[5] while posters were released to theatres, "no movie trailers, no ads, and only two stills,"[12] and no press kits were released.[13]

The film was not screened for critics.[14] Lack of concrete information from Fox led to speculation that the distributor 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 the AP.[10] That speculation was followed by open criticism of the studio's lack of support from Ain't It Cool News, Time, and Esquire.[15][16][17] Time '​s Joel Stein wrote "the film's ads and trailers tested atrociously", but, "still, abandoning Idiocracy seems particularly unjust, since Judge has made a lot of money for Fox."[16]

In The New York Times, Dan Mitchell argued that Fox might be shying away from the cautionary tale about low-intelligence dysgenics, because the company did not want to offend either its viewers or potential advertisers portrayed negatively in the film[18] noting that in the film, Starbucks delivers handjobs, and the motto of Carl's Jr. has degenerated from "Don't Bother Me. I'm Eating." to "Fuck You! I'm Eating!"[19]

Box office performance[edit]

Film Release date Box office revenue Box office ranking Budget Reference
United States United States International Worldwide All time United States All time worldwide
Idiocracy September 2006 $444,093 $51,210 $495,303 #6,914 Unknown Unknown [20]

Box office receipts totaled $444,093 in 135 theaters in the U.S.[21]

Critical reception[edit]

Idiocracy was not screened for critics, but the film received generally favorable reviews. Praise focused on concept, casting, and humor; the bulk of the criticism was directed at the film's release issues or at special effects and plot problems. Los Angeles Times reviewer Carina Chocano described it as "spot on" satire and a "pitch-black, bleakly hilarious vision of an American future", although the "plot, naturally, is silly and not exactly bound by logic. But it's Judge's gimlet-eyed knack for nightmarish extrapolation that makes Idiocracy a cathartic delight."[22] In a review only 87 words long[10] in Entertainment Weekly, Joshua Rich gave the film an "EW Grade" of "D" stating that "Mike Judge implores us to reflect on a future in which Britney and K-Fed are like the new Adam and Eve."[23] The AV Club '​s Nathan Rabin found Luke Wilson "perfectly cast [...] as a quintessential everyman"; and wrote of the film: "Like so much superior science fiction, Idiocracy uses a fantastical future to comment on a present. [...] There's a good chance that Judge's smartly lowbrow Idiocracy will be mistaken for what it's satirizing."[14]

In other countries the film was reviewed positively. John Patterson, critic for The Guardian (U.K.), wrote, "Idiocracy isn't a masterpiece—Fox seems to have stiffed Judge on money at every stage—but it's endlessly funny", and of the film's popularity, described seeing the film "in a half-empty house. Two days later, same place, same show—packed-out."[24] Brazilian news magazine Veja called the film "politically incorrect", recommended that readers see the DVD, and wrote "the film went flying through [American] theaters and did not open in Brazil. Proof that the future contemplated by Judge is not that far away."[25]

Critic Alexandre Koball of CinePlayers.com (Brazil), while giving the movie a score of 5/5 along with another staff reviewer, wrote, "Idiocracy is not exactly [...] funny nor [...] innovative but it's a movie to make you think, even if for five minutes. And for that it manages to stay one level above the terrible average of comedy movies released in the last years in the United States."[26]

Rotten Tomatoes returned a 73% "fresh" rating based on 41 reviews by critics,[27] and Metacritic gave a score of 64% based on 8 critics.[28]

Home media[edit]

Idiocracy was released on DVD on January 9, 2007 with cropped and widescreen aspect ratios, deleted scenes, English and Spanish spoken language tracks, and subtitles in English, Spanish, and French. As of February 2007, it had earned $9 million on DVD rentals, over 20 times its gross domestic box office revenue of under $450,000.[29]

In the United Kingdom, uncut versions of the film have been shown on satellite channel Sky Comedy on February 26, 2009 with the Freeview premiere shown on Film4 on April 26, 2009.

Spin-off[edit]

In August 2012, Crews said he was in talks with director Judge and Fox over a possible Idiocracy spin-off featuring his President Camacho character, initially conceived as a web series.[30] A week before the 2012 elections he reprised the character in a series of shorts for website Funny or Die.

Analysis[edit]

The idea of a dystopian society based on dysgenics is not new. H. G. Wells' The Time Machine postulates a devolved society of humans, as does the short story "The Marching Morons" by Cyril M. Kornbluth, akin to the "Epsilon-minus Semi-Morons" of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.[31][32]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Box Office Summary (BoxOfficeMojo)
  2. ^ Walker, Rob (2008-05-04). "This Joke’s for You". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  3. ^ Pierce, Thomas (January 11, 2007). "So What Idiot Kept This Movie Out of Theaters? (3rd item)". NPR. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  4. ^ "Idiocracy at Austin Studios. Facilities usage.". Austin Studios;. Austin Film Society. Archived from the original on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  5. ^ a b c Garcia, Chris (August 30, 2006). "Was 'Idiocracy' treated idiotically?". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  6. ^ "Texas Film Commission Filmography (2000-2007)". Office of the Governor. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2010-06-20. 
  7. ^ "Mike Judge's Idiocracy Tests! (etc.)". Eric Vespe quoting anonymous contributor. AintItCoolNews.com. August 22, 2005. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  8. ^ Franklin, Garth (February 28, 2005). "Mike Judge Still Not In "3001"". Dark Horizons. Archived from the original on 2008-02-05. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  9. ^ Carroll, Larry (August 30, 2006). "MTV Movie File". MTV. Viacom. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  10. ^ a b c Pearson, Ryan (September 8, 2006). "The mystery of 'Idiocracy'". AP. Retrieved 2006-11-25. 
  11. ^ About Movie Box Office Tracking and Terms. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
  12. ^ Kernion, Jette (October 22, 2006). "Time for Mike Judge to go Indie". Cinematical. 
  13. ^ Patel, Nihar (September 8, 2006). "A Paucity of Publicity for 'Idiocracy'". Day to Day. NPR.  Transcript.
  14. ^ a b Rabin, Nathan (September 6, 2006). "Idiocracy (review)". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  15. ^ Vespe, Eric (September 2, 2006). "Open Letter to Fox re: IDIOCRACY!!!". Ain't It Cool News. 
  16. ^ a b Stein, Joel (September 10, 2006). "Dude, Where's My Film?". Time Magazine. 
  17. ^ Raftery, Brian (June 1, 2006). "Mike Judge Is Getting Screwed (Again)". Esquire. 
  18. ^ Mitchell, Dan (September 9, 2006). "Shying away from Degeneracy". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-11-25. 
  19. ^ Adawi, Kamal (August 8, 2008). "Idiocracy is Pure Genius". MBAcasestudysolutions.com. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  20. ^ "Idiocracy (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  21. ^ "Idiocracy". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Retrieved 2007-02-02. 
  22. ^ Chocano, Carina (September 4, 2006). "Movie review : 'Idiocracy'". Los Angeles Times. calendarlive.com. Retrieved 2010-09-29. [dead link]
  23. ^ Rich, Joshua (August 30, 2006). "Idiocracy (2006)". ew.com. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  24. ^ Patterson, John (September 8, 2006). "On film : Stupid Fox". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  25. ^ "Idiocracy". veja.com (in Portuguese). Brazil: VEJA. March 21, 2007. Retrieved 2010-09-16. ...o filme passou voando pelos cinemas americanos e nem estreou nos brasileiros. Prova de que o futuro vislumbrado por Judge não está assim tão distante. 
  26. ^ Koball, Alexandre (April 12, 2007). "Idiocracy (2006)". CinePlayers.com (in Portuguese). Brazil. Retrieved 2010-09-16. 
  27. ^ "Idiocracy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  28. ^ "Idiocracy". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  29. ^ DVD/ Home Video summary (BoxOfficeMojo)
  30. ^ Yamato, Jen (August 6, 2012). "Idiocracy Spin-Off In The Works? Terry Crews Talks". Movieline. Retrieved 2012-10-08. 
  31. ^ Tremblay, Ronald Michel (November 4, 2009). "Humankind’s future: social and political Utopia or Idiocracy?". Atlantic Free Press. Retrieved 2010-05-08. 
  32. ^ Grigg, William Norman (May 14, 2010). "Idiocracy Rising". Lew Rockwell. Retrieved 2010-10-02. 

External links[edit]