If you’re a fan of Mike Judge, like myself, it’s impossible to watch Idiocracy without comparing it to Office Space. Even fan favorite actors like David Herman and Stephen Root make an appearance. Disappointingly, while Office Space satirized the workplace perfectly, the comedy doesn’t work quite as well in Idiocracy.
The concept is simple (and simply laid out for the audience by a helpful narrator): The United States military is conducting an experiment in human stasis and needs an average guy and girl to be preserved in coffin-shaped canisters for a year. Pvt. Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), an exceedingly average guy with no aspirations, and prostitute Rita (Maya Rudolph), just a prostitute, are the lucky candidates. After a long-winded first act where Joe and Rita are forgotten and end up oversleeping, Joe wakes 500 years into future to find that America has become ridiculously stupid and Joe is the smartest man on the planet.
With a story like that, there’s plenty of room for satirical comedy. Unfortunately, there’s no cleverness to the satire. Morons of today make fun of smarter people by calling them nerds. Apparently, morons of the future make fun of smart people by calling them fags and threatening to hurt them. A common complaint today is that doctors are too young and don’t have adequate experience to treat patients. Doctors of the future are pot smoking teenagers. Businesses today use sex to sell products. Businesses of the future literally use sex to sell products. And of course there’s the ubiquitous jab at FOX News. Hardy har har.
These gags are only really good for a couple of shots before they wear out their welcome. Unfortunately, we’re constantly being kicked in the nuts by these stale jokes like the main character in Idiocracy‘s fictional TV show: Ow! My Balls!. The satire here is so obvious and therefore not very funny that the movie works better if it isn’t viewed as a satire. If we view Joe’s plight as him being in a strange, impossible land, then the repeated sights of Starbucks that sell “full body” lattés transforms from a tired joke to simple ambience.
It becomes necessary to view the movie in this way, at least when it comes to the US President of the future, a violent ex-fighter played by Terry Crews. Surely Mike Judge didn’t intend to say that only idiots would put a black man in office.