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The Best Movie You Never Saw: Idiocracy

06.15.2013

Welcome to The Best Movie You NEVER Saw, a column dedicated to examining films that have flown under the radar or gained traction throughout the years, earning them a place as a cult classic or underrated gem that was either before it’s time or has aged like a fine wine.

This week we’ll be examining Mike Judge’s ill-fated, cult favorite IDIOCRACY.

THE STORY:

Private Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), the definition of "average American", is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes 500 years in the future, where he discovers a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he's easily the most intelligent person alive.

THE PLAYERS:

Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge wrote and directed the film, following on the heels of his other cult film, OFFICE SPACE. The role of Joe Bauers/Not Sure is played by Luke Wilson, with Maya Rudolph playing a prostitute who “time travels” with him to the “desolate” future. Terry Crews plays President Comacho and Dax Shepard plays Frito, an unlikely ally to Wilson and Rudolph. There’s a number of familiar faces that pop up throughout, including a cameo from Justin Long as a “doctor.”

THE HISTORY:

Best known for his animated series Beavis and Butthead and cult film OFFICE SPACE, Mike Judge wrote IDIOCRACY as a means to fulfilling his two-picture deal at Fox and finding a venue to express his view on the trajectory of American society. Envisioned as a “2001 gone wrong,” where society got worse instead of better, Judge attracted Luke Wilson to the project, which ultimately led to it finally being made. Fox, however, couldn’t figure out what to do with the film once complete and sat on it for almost a year, before releasing it in just enough theaters to fulfill the distribution deal. In most places where it was released the title wasn’t even sent out, and was listed as “Untitled Mike Judge Comedy.” 

Naturally, the film tanked, due to there being no trailers, press kits, or critic screenings. It’s one of the most controversial cases of a film being swept under the rug, especially since Fox has never admitted to the actual reasoning, even to Judge. It’s final box office totaled $444,000 worldwide, from a budget speculated at $20 million. Since it’s blink-and-you-missed it release, the film has gained a slow and steady cult following and continues to gain followers who finally bare witness to the masterful and hilarious satire that it offers.

“We had so much fun making that, and it really is strange the people who love it. I had a weird thing happen where Guns N' Roses were in town and I got an email from Axl Rose's assistant saying that Axl had wanted me to go the show and I was like, "That's weird, I've never met him." But I've been a fan since 1986, so we went to see the show. I was too embarrassed to go backstage, but Owen did and he said Axl was talking about how much he loved "Idiocracy." - Luke Wilson

WHY IT’S GREAT:

IDIOCRACY is one of the best modern-day social satires ever made. Like the brilliant work of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, writer/director Mike Judge has pulled from the ridiculous trends of modern-day life and created a “2001” where things didn’t turn out so pristine and evolved. IDIOCRACY isn’t “funny ‘cause it’s true” as much as it’s “funny ‘cause it COULD be true.” I like to think there’s still hope for humanity, but IDIOCRACY paints a portrait that’s hard to deny.

When an insignificant, average intelligence Army private, Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) volunteers for a top secret Army experiment that would see him “frozen” for a year, something goes horribly wrong and he’s forgotten about for 500 years. Joe awakens to a world that has devolved so much that the most ludicrous forms of idiocy have embedded themselves in everyday life, subsequently making him the smartest man on Earth.

Joe is joined by fellow volunteer/prostitute, played brilliantly by Maya Rudolph, who awakens at the same time, but doesn’t have as much trouble fitting in to the devolved society. However, the two have a strange bond and Joe brings her along in his journey to seemingly save the planet from itself. Along the way he’s joined up with a dim-witted “attorney” played by Dax Shepard, who was ironically involved in the types of shows (Punk’d) that have been labeled as part of the coming of the social apocalypse. Perhaps the most popular character of the film is President Comacho, played to perfection by Terry Crews, as a former wrestler/porn star who is now the leader of the free world.

What transpires is a journey through a reality TV nightmare, where everything in society, from entertainment, shopping, eating, and even going to the hospital, jail, or even the courthouse has become a showcase for idiotic lunacy (watch for Stephen Root as a judge with “Wolverine” hair). Everything has been dumbed down to be as fast, cheap, and easy as possible, thereby creating absolute chaos in every aspect of day-to-day existence. Corporate sponsorship is key, where people, speech, nations, and everything in between are somehow connected to a brand. Sound too far fetched? Nope, didn’t think so.

“I was thinking about the way evolution works, there’s no predators now, so it started with that but then I was actually in line with my daughters in 2001 at Disneyland at the teacups ride….there was a woman behind me who had this altercation with another woman, they both have their kids in strollers and they just start going off ‘I’m gonna kick your ass’….I’m thinking this isn’t what Disney had in mind.” – Mike Judge

IDIOCRACY peeks under the hood of what awaits a society that foregoes the quest for knowledge and progression, opting instead for the quick and easy. Forget your dystopian futures like those of STAR TREK or TOTAL RECALL. This is a place where you can buy law degrees at Costco, drink sports beverages from a water fountain, and get handjobs at Starbucks. If you’re thinking that sounds pretty cool, then it may be time to enroll back in those junior college courses and rethink your life, “Obi-Wan style.”

What IDIOCRACY does so well, too, is that it never gets preachy or tries to lead you into thinking one way or another. It allows you to laugh at the absurdity, while still acknowledging the possibility that much of what you’re laughing at could come true, either literally or in some variation. You’ll likely find yourself uttering, “That’s so true!” as each “ridiculous” scene unfolds. And the ideas are presented with insightful precision; Fast food kiosks, chair/toilet hybrids, half-naked news anchors, and a “rehabilitation” sentence that involves an audience, monster trucks, a grenade launcher and a blowtorch.

“Mike is real clued into stuff that I'll see but it won't register with me -- like the size of Big Gulps being so huge or when you watch the news in L.A., there are these really busty weather girls. It takes somebody like Judge whose got a real writer's mentality to make a social commentary on it. It made me think, "This really is like 'Idiocracy' where the woman's doing the news topless." – Luke Wilson

With a perfectly-suited cast, hilariously spot on satire, and a bevy of clever nods to a possible “dystopian” future, IDIOCRACY is a film that was before it’s time and one that never had the opportunity to connect with mainstream audiences. It’s my guess that one of the biggest detractors of it’s miniscule release was to avoid backlash from those that would take offense, largely because they fit the bill displayed onscreen. And, sadly, many do. However, I think IDIOCRACY is more of a cautionary comedy, which speaks volumes about where we are, where we’re going, and how to sidestep a world where we watch a naked ass for 90 minutes at the theater and give it eight Oscars. Okay, besides SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.

“… if someone made a movie in the late '50s about the year 2004, it probably wouldn't have had The Maury Povich Show, and gangs, and whatever. So this starts out as a documentary about how the people who are reproducing the fastest are guys who are too lazy to put on a rubber, and lots of highly educated people are waiting until they're 40 to have a kid, and then having one or none. It's kind of a sleeper movie about how, 400 or 500 years from now, a guy who's your average dumbass today is the smartest person in the world.”

MEMORABLE SCENE:

There really are too many to choose, but my two standouts have to be the conversation with the President’s “council” about how to make plants grow. The back and forth between their energy drink Brawndo vs. regular “toilet” water is priceless. The other scene features Justin Long as a dim-witted doctor who gives probably the worst diagnosis ever. Classic stuff.

WATCH IT:

IDIOCRACY is available on blu-ray and digital download. Get it here!

PARTING SHOT:

“... And there was a time in this country, a long time ago, when reading wasn't just for fags and neither was writing. People wrote books and movies, movies that had stories so you cared whose ass it was and why it was farting, and I believe that time can come again!” – Joe Bauers/Not Sure (Luke Wilson)

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Source: JoBlo.com

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+11
3:16AM on 06/15/2013
But Brawndo's got what plants crave!
But Brawndo's got what plants crave!
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3:24AM on 06/15/2013
ELECTROLYTES!
ELECTROLYTES!
9:50AM on 06/16/2013

Love this movie

But we are SO much closer to this being a documentary than we were when it came out. One need look no farther than the polls that show how many more people know who Kim Kardashian is than know who the Vice President is, or how many more know that she just had a baby VS how many people know that the government is storing every electronic communication they make in a vault in Utah. People aren't paying attention, and the media is to blame (and loving it). Unfortunately, it is making for a
But we are SO much closer to this being a documentary than we were when it came out. One need look no farther than the polls that show how many more people know who Kim Kardashian is than know who the Vice President is, or how many more know that she just had a baby VS how many people know that the government is storing every electronic communication they make in a vault in Utah. People aren't paying attention, and the media is to blame (and loving it). Unfortunately, it is making for a dumber society, and dumber voting block. People vote themselves free rides already, and it will only get worse as more people become dependent on government. We are quickly approaching Idiocracy.
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+5
2:45AM on 06/16/2013

Hooray for Idiocracy!

I was an extra in this film, so I love seeing it get mentioned. Good memories.
I was an extra in this film, so I love seeing it get mentioned. Good memories.
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6:00AM on 06/16/2013
Very cool - which scene or part of the film did you appear in?
Very cool - which scene or part of the film did you appear in?
12:43PM on 06/16/2013
I was on set for probably 8-9 different sequences but the only one you can clearly see me in is at the monster truck event at the end. In the shot where Frito and Rita are running up behind Camacho, I'm in the upper left corner of the screen with my arm raised.

During my time there I got to shake hands with Mike Judge, and I waved at Luke Wilson (getting a less than enthusiastic wave back).
I was on set for probably 8-9 different sequences but the only one you can clearly see me in is at the monster truck event at the end. In the shot where Frito and Rita are running up behind Camacho, I'm in the upper left corner of the screen with my arm raised.

During my time there I got to shake hands with Mike Judge, and I waved at Luke Wilson (getting a less than enthusiastic wave back).
5:00PM on 06/15/2013
His film he made after this one deserves a column as well, Extract was a great under-rated comedy. Ben Affleck takes the biggest bong hoot in movie history!
His film he made after this one deserves a column as well, Extract was a great under-rated comedy. Ben Affleck takes the biggest bong hoot in movie history!
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12:44PM on 06/15/2013

everyone i know has seen it

this is not a 'hidden gem' anymore. everyone I know has seen it...and loves it. Thank you for shopping At CostCo I love you...
this is not a 'hidden gem' anymore. everyone I know has seen it...and loves it. Thank you for shopping At CostCo I love you...
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4:44PM on 06/15/2013
Even my dad has seen this movie, and he loves it!
Even my dad has seen this movie, and he loves it!
10:16AM on 06/15/2013

Carl Jr.'s - Fuck you, I'm eating.

I think it's pretty impressive how Idiocracy has entered into pop-culture. Seems every month or two someone is making some reference to mankind being doomed to this sort of future. Also, it has the most intelligent take on crude, tasteless bodily-function humor.

All hail President Camacho!
I think it's pretty impressive how Idiocracy has entered into pop-culture. Seems every month or two someone is making some reference to mankind being doomed to this sort of future. Also, it has the most intelligent take on crude, tasteless bodily-function humor.

All hail President Camacho!
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1:52AM on 06/15/2013
I liked this a lot. It did feel a little mean-spirited in parts, but it's a movie about a society gone to hell in a handbasket in the most amusing way possible, it had to be mean. I think Luke Wilson was a terrific protagonist and really embodied the everyman. It was very funny and the broad, over-the-top satire was enjoyable.
I liked this a lot. It did feel a little mean-spirited in parts, but it's a movie about a society gone to hell in a handbasket in the most amusing way possible, it had to be mean. I think Luke Wilson was a terrific protagonist and really embodied the everyman. It was very funny and the broad, over-the-top satire was enjoyable.
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2:25PM on 06/15/2013

GENIUS MOVIE

I saw this like a while back for the first time and it was so damn funny. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. Sad thing is this movie could become true, actually it is becoming true. have you've seen the stupid people we've have in america, the stupid music we getting the stupid movies the stupid laws. Uh oh.
I saw this like a while back for the first time and it was so damn funny. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. Sad thing is this movie could become true, actually it is becoming true. have you've seen the stupid people we've have in america, the stupid music we getting the stupid movies the stupid laws. Uh oh.
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8:52AM on 06/15/2013

I quote this flick all the time

and very few of my coworkers get it. I am a 40 year old intellectual that has adopted a child and through a strange set of circumstances, I now work in the oilfields in North Dakota. Most of my coworkers have packs of kids, and it feels like I am living the movie...
and very few of my coworkers get it. I am a 40 year old intellectual that has adopted a child and through a strange set of circumstances, I now work in the oilfields in North Dakota. Most of my coworkers have packs of kids, and it feels like I am living the movie...
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2:10AM on 06/15/2013
I loved Idiocracy! Terry Crews as The President was hilarious.

I've always wondered what happens though, once Upgrayedd shows up at the very end...
I loved Idiocracy! Terry Crews as The President was hilarious.

I've always wondered what happens though, once Upgrayedd shows up at the very end...
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+3
11:18PM on 06/15/2013
I love this movie, I put it on my "Movies that need to be on Bluray" list on MFC! Funny ass flick.
I love this movie, I put it on my "Movies that need to be on Bluray" list on MFC! Funny ass flick.
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12:08AM on 06/16/2013
Quick note to anyone looking to get a decent version. It is on iTunes HD, which I downloaded, and it's the best it's ever looked. It's not a blu-ray, but the best version I've seen so far. Cheers!
Quick note to anyone looking to get a decent version. It is on iTunes HD, which I downloaded, and it's the best it's ever looked. It's not a blu-ray, but the best version I've seen so far. Cheers!
+3
9:18PM on 06/15/2013

Funny !!!

This is a surprisingly good movie... When i watched it i wasn't expecting much, but i got a lot of fun in return... But a lot of people have seen it, so i don't think that this deserves a spot in here... President Camachio rocks (LOL)...
Anyway, good choice to include a comedy in your line of articles Paul.
This is a surprisingly good movie... When i watched it i wasn't expecting much, but i got a lot of fun in return... But a lot of people have seen it, so i don't think that this deserves a spot in here... President Camachio rocks (LOL)...
Anyway, good choice to include a comedy in your line of articles Paul.
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2:28PM on 06/15/2013
I love this film. It's so hard to not see today's state of reality TV and people who are only celebrities for being rich douchebags, and not think of the world that Idiocracy warns us about.
I love this film. It's so hard to not see today's state of reality TV and people who are only celebrities for being rich douchebags, and not think of the world that Idiocracy warns us about.
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12:50PM on 06/15/2013

Love it

Mike Judge is a genius.
Mike Judge is a genius.
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10:40AM on 06/15/2013
A hilarious comedy. You have to wonder why Fox buried it as it's funnier than most comedies I see get huge releases.
They couldn't have been worried about insulting their audience since they would've laughed along with it and figured it was not about 'them'.
A hilarious comedy. You have to wonder why Fox buried it as it's funnier than most comedies I see get huge releases.
They couldn't have been worried about insulting their audience since they would've laughed along with it and figured it was not about 'them'.
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11:47AM on 06/15/2013
I think part of it has to do with how Fox News was portrayed in the movie.
I think part of it has to do with how Fox News was portrayed in the movie.
8:52PM on 06/15/2013

Great movie

and as you laugh you think to yourself "this shit probably will happen."
and as you laugh you think to yourself "this shit probably will happen."
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8:20AM on 06/15/2013
"I can't believe you like money too. We should hang out."

Love this movie. One of the most underrated comedies I have ever seen that I can always laugh at as if it's the first time I am watching it again.
"I can't believe you like money too. We should hang out."

Love this movie. One of the most underrated comedies I have ever seen that I can always laugh at as if it's the first time I am watching it again.
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2:39AM on 06/15/2013
Seen it, hilarious & some great satire thats almost pretty accurate by today's standards. Mike Judge needs to do more films for real.
Seen it, hilarious & some great satire thats almost pretty accurate by today's standards. Mike Judge needs to do more films for real.
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+1
10:04PM on 06/16/2013
Great movie, but honestly, I could never see it doing well with a larger audience. Pretty much all of Judge's productions, whether TV or film, always end up as cult hits. King of the Hill is the exception, but that's a lot safer than anything else he's done. The film's a great parody of current, dumb culture though and the extrapolation of what that would look like as the norm for society is genius.
Great movie, but honestly, I could never see it doing well with a larger audience. Pretty much all of Judge's productions, whether TV or film, always end up as cult hits. King of the Hill is the exception, but that's a lot safer than anything else he's done. The film's a great parody of current, dumb culture though and the extrapolation of what that would look like as the norm for society is genius.
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9:43AM on 06/16/2013

Abslolutely BRILLIANT movie!

Everyone I introduce this movie to LOVES it!
Everyone I introduce this movie to LOVES it!
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1:39AM on 06/16/2013
Great Movie.. Seen it by accident on cable and loved it.
Great Movie.. Seen it by accident on cable and loved it.
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9:50AM on 06/15/2013

Let's be honest...

While I agree it was a smart, funny movie, there's no way things would ever get that bad. China would come in and take over.
While I agree it was a smart, funny movie, there's no way things would ever get that bad. China would come in and take over.
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3:31AM on 06/15/2013
Glad you put this movie in this column.this is really like one of the best Sci-fi films i've ever seen and its become one of my alltime favourite films.great social satire and comedy film.grossly underrated.Wall-E must have been inspired by this film
Glad you put this movie in this column.this is really like one of the best Sci-fi films i've ever seen and its become one of my alltime favourite films.great social satire and comedy film.grossly underrated.Wall-E must have been inspired by this film
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