I went into this movie expecting to be impressed and to have some really great feelings of satisfaction. Living in Santa Cruz for five years has prepared me for the expected “pat you on your back” feeling you get when watching a documentary about a chilling or topical subject. There’s usually the moments of sheer disgust at the lack of respect a politician or official has for the given topic. There’s the shock of how appalling the statistics or situation is. There’s the in your face visuals that hammer home the message. The truth of it all is that usually I walk out of the theater with a kind of disatisfaction. “It’s great that they summed this all up.” I think. “It really is well made. They really did a good job of getting the facts out there.” But then the next thought I have is “too bad no one will see it.”
The feeling like you’re doing something important by seeing a progressive documentary is always marred by the hollow tinge of knowing that they are just preaching to the choir. Even a well-made documentary like “Why We Fight” or “The Control Room” which does a lot of research, has a coherent visual style, interesting and compelling talking heads and an appropriate amount of sway for dissidents just doesn’t ever feel like it would fly in Regan country. My personal barometer for this is my sister and mother. They both claim to hate documentaries. Now neither one are conservative by any means. They are nearly as left as me. Yet I have difficulty recommending some of those films to them. I can’t see them actually ever enjoying them despite the fact they may agree with the issues and they are definitely smart enough to decode the message.
The usual exception to this is Michael Moore … who they both, at times, can stomach. But despite his ability to have mass appeal (I believe that Farenheit was the biggest grossing documentary of all time), Michael Moore still has that air of choir preaching to him. He’s a carnival barker for the left. But perhaps he’s figured out the right formula (if he didn’t invent it) in his rejection (or reduction) of the “talking head” formula and a refocus on a central character/narrator to lend the film gravitas.
Michael Moore he is not but Al Gore really sells this film and its message. He’s more like that really great professor you had in college who took an everyday subject and made it jump out at you in new and interesting ways. The film essentially documents a powerpoint presentation (a very good one at that … it even includes animation in the style of Matt Groening) with jokes and anecdotes focusing on the subject of global warming. Gore’s life and political career are intercut into the presentation giving a kind of background on why he is so passionate about the subject. He repeatedly says that global warming “is not a political issue, its a moral one”. Watching the film its difficult to be swayed otherwise.
That said I cannot say anything else but: