About this time last year, I read a review of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy that mentioned it was the most important film I’d probably never see. Fox released it as quietly as possible for a very short time in only a handful of cities, and then it went straight to video.

I forgot about the review until the other week, when I placed Idiocracy on my Netflix list and just got around to watching it tonight. It starts with a “case study” that shows one highly intelligent couple hemming and hawing about having children, and eventually dying childless. It contrasts these people with a, er, less intelligent couple who breed like fruit flies. The film then veers into science fiction, with an average guy (Wilson) participating in an Army science experiment to “hibernate” him for one year. The experiment goes awry, of course, and he wakes up 500 years later to a world ruled by drooling imbeciles and ravaged by drought, starvation, illiteracy, and violence. He’s also deemed to be the smartest man in the world.

Did I mention this is a comedy? It’s actually quite funny, although a little clumsy in places, and unsettlingly thought-provoking. While watching it I could see shades of that dystopian future in today’s society. The most disturbing observation it raises, of course, is that the world’s most intelligent and able people tend to procreate very sparingly, if at all, and that their influence on the world is slowly fading. The question that stems from that is whether any of us has the right to judge who reproduces and how much. Once I realized that was a central issue, I felt sort of ashamed of myself for laughing at the movie. Another review I read of this also mentioned it was the “feel-bad comedy of the year,” which sums it up perfectly.

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