The film tells the story of two ordinary people who are taken into a top-secret military hibernation experiment that goes awry, and awaken 500 years in the future. They discover that the world has degenerated into a dystopia where advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism run rampant and dysgenic pressure has resulted in a uniformly stupid human 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.
During the prologue, a narrator (Earl Mann) explains that in modern society, natural selection is indifferent toward intelligence. In a society in which stupid people easily out-breed the intelligent, the result is a world that has degenerated into a barely functioning society held together by a rapidly crumbling, mostly automated technological infrastructure that was created by intelligent individuals many years (perhaps centuries) earlier that few, if any, of the less intelligent members of 26th Century society know how to operate or fix. In the 26th Century, highway overpasses have collapsed, structurally failing buildings are tied together for support, automated vacuuming systems barely function, voice-prompted machinery regularly misinterprets commands, computers automatically lay off workers without anybody knowing how to stop them, nuclear power plants leak and go unrepaired, and buildings often have huge holes in their roofs.
In 2005, Corporal Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), a US Army librarian graphed as the Army's "most average" soldier, and Rita (Maya Rudolph), a prostitute whose pimp, Upgrayedd, (pronounced as "Upgrade") is paid to make sure she is not missed, are guinea pigs in a secret, year-long, military hibernation project. They are sealed in their hibernation chambers, to be awakened a year later, but the experiment is forgotten when the officer in charge, Lieutenant Colonel Collins, is arrested for having started his own prostitution ring under the tutelage of Upgrayedd. The military base is demolished, and a Fuddruckers (gradually renamed to "Buttfuckers") is built on the site.
Five hundred years in the future, Joe and Rita's hibernation chambers are jarred open by an enormous garbage avalanche. Joe crashes into the apartment of Frito Pendejo (Dax Shepard), a typical idiot of the future, with an apartment full of junk food and a prominent, giant television that is covered with advertisements. Joe heads to the hospital where he receives a diagnosis from a stoned doctor (Justin Long) of being "'tarded", "fucked up" and "talking like a fag" (i.e. speaking in grammatical, semantically precise sentences).
Seeing the date of 2505 on a magazine repeated on his bill, Joe realizes that 500 years have passed since he was frozen and he flees the hospital. Joe is arrested for not paying his hospital bill and for not having a barcode tattoo, which all residents have imprinted on their left arm. Meanwhile, Rita is not as shocked to see the newly changed world and quickly learns to take advantage of the lower intelligence of those around her to earn money as a prostitute.
At his trial, Joe's public defense lawyer, Frito, helps convict him, citing the damage done to his apartment and Joe's ruining his enjoyment of a new episode of "Ow, My Balls". Joe is imprisoned. The I.D.-tattoo machine interprets Joe's confused response as his name, branding him "Not Sure". Joe takes an IQ test before escaping jail. Joe returns to Frito's apartment, asking him if a time machine exists to help him return to 2005. Frito claims there is one, but agrees to help only after Joe promises him billions of dollars.
En route to the time machine, Joe and Frito find Rita. She does not realize that she's been asleep for 500 years until Joe tells her so, but even so, she fears Upgrayedd will find her. Frito leads them to a city-sized Costco, where Joe is arrested again after his bar code is accidentally scanned. Instead of being returned to jail, Joe is taken to the White House to be signed in as the new Secretary of the Interior, President Camacho (Terry Crews), a former porn star and professional wrestler, having seen the results of Joe's IQ test which show Joe as the smartest man alive. In a speech the President charges Joe with solving the world's problems: food shortages, dust bowls, a crippled economy, and related issues. If he doesn't solve the problems within a week, the President will kick him in the balls and send him back to prison.
Though Joe initially professes that he knows nothing of resolving these issues, when he discovers that the crops are watered with a Gatorade-like sports drink named "Brawndo", which has caused salt to accumulate in the soil rendering it poisonous to plants, he finds himself knowledgeable enough to correct the problem. The narrator comments that "Brawndo has replaced water virtually everywhere" and that Brawndo purchased the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Communications Commission. In response to the plan to correct the problem by switching to plain water, White House cabinet members continuously repeat the Brawndo tag line, "Brawndo's got what plants crave. It's got electrolytes", without understanding that electrolytes are simply salt.
After several failed attempts to explain the problem to the cabinet members, Joe instead convinces them that he can talk to plants, and persuades the cabinet members to start irrigating the crops with water. Unbeknownst to Joe, half the country works for Brawndo and his decision to use water in the fields causes the company's stock to plummet, leading to massive automatic layoffs and unemployment, apparently without improving the crop situation. The angry population riots, and Joe is sentenced to "Rehabilitation", a demolition derby featuring undefeated "Rehabilitation Officer" Beef Supreme (Andrew Wilson).
Meanwhile, Rita discovers that Joe's reintroduction of water to the soil has finally made vegetation sprout in the fields. To save Joe (and with Frito in tow), she bribes a TV cameraman to show the thriving crops to the world. Imperiled, Joe gives a heartfelt speech, asking everyone if they really want to kill the one person who's trying to help them, but the audience simply responds by laughing at him. Just in time, Frito shows the thriving crops. The President sees the thriving new plants on the stadium's big screen televisions and gives Joe a full pardon just as he is about to be incinerated by a flamethrower. At the celebration, Joe decides to stay and help repair civilization and the President names Joe Vice President. He later finds that the time machine spoken of earlier is simply a highly inaccurate amusement park history ride.
Joe serves a short term as Vice President and is subsequently elected to the presidency. The narrator states that, although Joe did not save humanity from itself, he did put it back on the track toward intelligence. Joe and Rita marry and have the world's three smartest children, while Frito, now Joe's Vice President, takes eight wives and fathers thirty-two of the world's stupidest children, echoing the introduction to the film.
After the credits, a third hibernation capsule is shown opening, releasing a snappily dressed Upgrayedd intent on tracking down Rita.
- Luke Wilson as Cpl. Joe Bauers, a.k.a. "Not Sure"
- Maya Rudolph as Rita
- Dax Shepard as Frito Pendejo
- Terry Crews as U.S. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho
- Anthony Campos as Secretary of Defense
- David Herman as Secretary of State
- Tom Kenny (uncredited) as voice of the IPPA Computer
- Sara Rue as the Attorney General
- Kevin McAfee as Bailiff
- Robert Musgrave as Sgt. Keller
- Michael McCafferty as Lt. Col. Collins
- Justin Long as Dr. Lexus
- Andrew Wilson as Beef Supreme
- Kevin Klee as Hormel Chavez
- Scarface as Upgrayedd
- Thomas Haden Church as Brawndo CEO
- Stephen Root as Judge Hank "The Hangman" BMW
- Jason Konopisos as Cop at Government Center
- Matt Bruce as House of Particular Individuals Inmate
- Brendan Hill as Secretary of Energy