14 July 2008

"Sizzle" fizzles

Note: this review is part of Sizzle Tuesday, a blogosphere experiment in which 50+ blogs will simultaneously publish their reviews of Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy at 5:00am EDT on Tuesday 15th July 2008.

I did not come into this review unbiased. I really, really wanted to like this movie. Randy Olson, director of Sizzle and also last year's Intelligent Design documentary Flock of Dodos, is a pioneer of science communication and I want him to succeed, and for more people to start doing what he is doing.

I am also very concerned about climate change, and especially the effect it is having on our biosphere, and so I am a big fan of any attempt to try and bring the topic more into the mainstream, especially debunking the phony claims of the climate change denialists running rampant out there.

It is for this reason -- that I was so prepared in advance to love this film and give it an A+ -- that I am really disappointed to have to say that I didn't like it.

I thought about opting out of the review. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all, right? But that is not what Being A Blogger is about. It's about truth-telling from a personal perspective. So here is my personal truth about Sizzle:

The device used in the film is that it is a documentary of making a documentary about climate change. A real documentary film crew is filming a phony documentary film crew, with Randy Olson a common denominator - part of both real and phony film crews. And it seems that the exploits of the phony film crew are meant to be funny.

Problem is, they're not. First off, the "acting" is, well... uh... terrible. It reminded me of the homemade horror movie we filmed at a slumber party when I was 15 years old: overly affected and painfully adherent to stereotype. There were a couple of glimmers of true humor though, and as I want to be as positive as possible in this review, I thought I would list them here:
  • When the "camera crew" show up to the first interview in a Hummer.
  • When one of the "producers" scopes out the home of climate change denialist Dr Chillingari as a potential location for their interview with him, Randy Olson complains to the gay Hollywood "producer" that Chillingari's home is just too "weird", all the while said producer is dusting some of the many eccentricities cluttering his Malibu home and says something along the lines of, "oh, I don't know, I kind of liked it."
  • When the same producer quips, "Every documentary needs a celebrity. It's how they get validated."
  • When Randy Olson is talking on the phone to a celebrity's agent and says, "We're interviewing some of the world's top global warming scientists." and the agent says,
    "Yeah, I was afraid of that."
I'm afraid these are the gems, folks. Funny, I suppose, but only if you are simultaneously being tickled on the foot with a feather, and not nearly funny enough to warrant the "documentary of a documentary" device in the first place.

If there's a saving grace, it's the interviews with the top climate scientists Drs Richard Somerville and Jerry Meehl, who explain, in very straightforward terms, that climate change is real, it's caused by humans, and yes there's still hope to stop it. I particularly liked when Randy Olson asked Jerry Meehl, "do you believe the earth has warmed in the last 150 years" and Meehl replies "belief has nothing to do with it". Yay, science! I could have used a lot more of these interviews.

And at the end, the phony film crew is falling apart and they decide to get real by filming the "human face of global warming" and interviewing some of the people whose lives were wrecked by Hurricane Katrina. It's moving stuff, sure, but instead of focusing on the global warming link (though they do mention it at the end), the obsess far too long about the federal government's failed response to the emergency, which, as grievous as it indeed is, has nothing to do with a climate change documentary. Then they try to wrap it up with some phony feel-good scenes where the "film crew" become eco-warriors. But it's just too contrived to be meaningful.

In summary, Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy proves that, no matter how hard you try (and oh how they tried), climate change just isn't funny.


Nick Anthis said...

Agreed! I actually meant to mention the Meehl "belief" quote in my review, which I thought was one of the true gems of the movie, but it must have slipped my mind.

Juan Samaniego said...
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