Retro Review: Idiocracy

Idiocracy unpacks themes that are relevant even years after its 2006 release.

While ultimately a comedy movie, the on-the-nose satire not only presents worrying insights into a plausible future, but gives Idiocracy cult-like status thanks to ideas that have become, or are seemingly becoming, real life.

Retro Review: Idiocracy

Due to this, Idiocracy, directed and written by Mike Judge, is a comedy movie with unintentional—perhaps intentional—bleak undertones.

Viewers can expect plenty of laugh-out-loud moments during the 94-minute runtime, but some of these might be at the expense of a future that is arguably becoming more apparent as the movie ages.

Satire That Doesn’t Get Take Itself Seriously

The inventive plot of Idiocracy follows of-average-intelligence Joe Bauers as he undergoes suspended animation to awaken five centuries later (in 2505) in a society reduced to all-out consumerism, overconsumption, and anti-intellectualism.  

While Joe doesn’t realize this at first, he starts to piece it together as he wanders around a fictional futuristic Washington D.C., witnessing large garbage heaps, commercialized low-brow entertainment, rampant advertising, and the confused reactions of citizens as he attempts to communicate for answers.

Before long, Joe is deemed the smartest person alive after taking an IQ test, subsequently hired by the President to fix the country’s problems, one of which includes a nationwide crop drought (caused by energy drink irrigation).

The plot sets the scene for a genuine laugh-fest despite the dystopian setting, eventually striking the right balance of satire and sci-fi dystopia without being too heavy.

It’s this balance that Mike Judge deserves credit for, as it’s satire that at no point takes itself too seriously.

A Well-Delivered Script Rife With One-Liners

While Luke Wilson adequately delivers his role as the ambling, perplexed protagonist Joe Bauers, it’s Dax Sheperd as the innocent, yet painfully ignorant, Frito Pendejo who steals the show and delivers arguably the most memorable performance of the movie.

Credits also go to Justin Long as Doctor Lexus, who appears early on as a dope-smoking medical professional who’s first to diagnose Joe as “‘tarded”, before alerting his presence to the authorities for not having a scannable tattoo (ID), kick-starting the main plotline.

Ultimately, none of the main cast—who all have backgrounds in comedy—miss the mark here.

Each line is delivered to comedic effect, with viewers sure to find more than a few memorable one-liners to repeat from what is ultimately a well-written script.

World Building That’s Sure To Inspire Future Dystopias

What’s central to the directing of Idiocracy is the creative world building that has gone into making Idiocracy’s dystopia a bleakly believable, yet hilarious, future setting.

The set designs are original and clever, despite borrowing elements from Brave New World and The Marching Morons, with ideas that are sure to inspire more dystopias to come. 

Still, in light of the dystopian setting, director Mike Judge does well to deliver each scene with comedy front and center.

The driving force here is the ignorance of the citizens populating Judge’s depicted future, where arrogant incompetence trumps cautious scepticism.

The result is a well-directed effort that strikes a consistent tone throughout.

There is no scene that feels out of place in Idiocracy, even though one might argue that the outrageousness of the setting leaves infinite room to experiment script-wise.

Strong Themes That Are Still Relevant 

Perhaps the most standout quality of Idiocracy is how it presents strong themes while not taking itself too seriously.

Its themes—overconsumption, anti-intellectualism, and consumerism—remain relevant decades later, with some of the film’s concepts seemingly becoming more relevant as the movie continues to age.

One might consider Idiocracy as the comedic equivalent of 1984 – another cult-like dystopian story that is still frequently referenced thanks to themes and ideas that have manifested in real life in some way, or are becoming more realistic and possible over time.

That’s not to say Idiocracy is of the same storytelling caliber, however, or that it should be consumed in the same way.

It’s a slapstick comedy movie in the end, and this is more than evident in the dialogue-driven chuckles the 94-minute runtime delivers in each scene. 

Final Verdict

Despite Idiocracy’s bleak undertones of a future overrun by—and glorifying—ignorance, it’s a well above average comedy that delivers ample laughs thanks to strong themes that remain relevant even a decade after its 2006 release.

Through a satisfactory cast of well-known comedy names and a script that delivers memorable one-liners in almost every scene, director Mike Judge strikes a great balance between comedy and dystopian sci-fi, giving Idiocracy originality that warrants its still-growing cult following.

Some viewers might find Idiocracy bleak in some way, but it’s the on-the-nose slapstick humor that ultimately shows that this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.

It’s easily worth a watch for comedy fans, dystopia fans, and fans of the cast, despite a release date that some might (wrongly) think makes Idiocracy irrelevant by today’s standards.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy our post, ‘Jack Reacher Movie Review‘.

Max Roberts