How do you make a movie about Al Gore lecturing on global warming without boring your audience to tears or worse, inducing a mass coma? Before I saw An Inconvenient Truth, I would have said such a proposition was utterly ludicrous. Al Gore, lampooned during his political years as one of the most boring politicians ever to step foot on a campaign trail, would not seem to be the most likely candidate to be the subject of a film. But if there is one subject Al Gore is actually passionate about, it's the environment, particularly global warming. It's the one topic on which Gore really seems to come alive.
The film shows Gore delivering a lecture on global warming, which he has delivered all over the world. I know what you're thinking - oh, boy, a movie about a global warming lecture! (yawn) - but really, it's one of the more entertaining lectures you're likely to ever see. It even includes a clip from Futurama. It's not the most balanced perspective on global warming, perhaps, but there's enough in there to make even the most doubting of Thomases think twice the next time they fire up that gargantuan SUV.
The downside to making a film that is so singular in its perspective is that you risk ending up preaching to the choir. People who already believe our planet is in a state of emergency due to global warming, environmental activists, and liberals will come of the film ready to rally 'round the global warming flagpole, march on Washington, and start kicking some politicians' butts into gear until they start making strides toward actually addressing the issues. Conservatives, people who make their money off of oil, factories, autos and other pollutants, and even just your average Joe who isn't really sure about this whole global warming thing, though, are likely to walk out of the film feeling as if they've just been subjected to a propaganda buffet akin to Reefer Madness.
Whatever you may think about Al Gore's politics, there's no denying the man feels passionately about global warming. Gore has been studying global warming for longer than it takes most people to earn a doctoral degree -- he should probably be awarded an honorary doctorate on the subject, if he hasn't already. The film does a nice job also of giving some perspective to Gore's passion. He talks openly and emotionally about his son being hit by a car at the age of six, and how thinking he was going to lose his beloved child made him reconsider his priorities and what he was doing with his life. The lecture itself isn't your usual melba toast lecture on the environment; Gore is surprisingly entertaining, peppering the salad of scientific facts he serves up with sparks of humor, wit and insight that frankly, I didn't know he had in him (and I'm not anti-Gore by any means - I supported him in his campaign with Clinton and in his run against Bush - I just think as a public speaker, he's uneven and leans sharply toward the dull side of the spectrum).
On this subject, though, Gore's passion is like a burning sun igniting him from within. Watching him dispel information about global warming with such zeal, it's impossible not to feel admiration for him, whether or not you agree with what he has to say. If what he and the scientists he quotes are right, we only have another decade or so before we've screwed things up so badly there's no turning back. Even if they're wrong and things aren't quite as dire as the picture the film paints, would it really be bad for the environment for us to decrease pollution a notch? Probably not. Gore doesn't see global warming as a partisan issue - he fervently wishes everyone - Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservative, would get on his bandwagon. It must be enormously frustrating for him to be so passionate about global warming and to feel that people don't want to hear the truth (or at least, what he clearly believes to be the truth), because it's, well, inconvenient. If Gore and his scientists are right and we all came to believe that, what would it mean for our lives; what sacrifices would we have to make to fix things; what changes might we find we have to make, and would we be willing to make them?
Therein lies the quandary at the heart of An Inconvenient Truth; the people most likely to be motivated to make lifestyle changes after seeing it are already on Gore's page. Will the film impact those who aren't enough to make a difference? Probably not, even with help of the rousing Melissa Etheridge song at the end. Gore said in the Q&A that he wants every science class in America to watch this film. Honestly, high school science classes and college campuses are the best places to screen An Inconvenient Truth. Gore needs to sell his message to the next generation, because they are the ones most likely to listen. The Environmental Revolution, if there is one, will come from the youth, as most uprisings do, not from their parents, who are mostly too ensconced in the lives to be willing to make real change. An Inconvenient Truth is a decent documentary packed with information, but it's not going to play well at your local metroplex. Much like when Gore went to Congress and tried to fire up Congress about global warming, nobody listened. If he tries to sell this film to the masses, it's likely to meet with the same response.
Others on An Inconvenient Truth: The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt says the film successfully accomplishes what he sees as its two goals: "to bring to a much larger audience...Al Gore's fascinating multimedia presentation of the facts and issues arising from the phenomenon of global climate change...[and] to re-introduce to the American public a man we thought we knew but clearly did not."