A documentary by Nathan Frankowski. Rated PG. Opens Friday, June 27, at the Cinemark Tinseltown
Truth begins and ends with the title of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a semislick advertorial for “intelligent design”, the sanitized public mask of creationism, itself invented by Christians who think their God is too stupid to have come up with evolution on his own.
Assembled by Nathan Frankowski, who did some Bush-lionizing on The Path to 9/11, this journey into ignorance is hosted by Ben Stein, a former Nixon speechwriter whose deadpan face was introduced in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He and the director borrow heavily from the Michael Moore playbook, as Stein plays dumb while asking leading questions to which he already knows the answers.
Various cranks, allegedly fired from academia for their outrageous anti-Darwinist queries, give the usual freedom-of-speech spiels. (The genuine questions raised here have to do more with the notion of tenure than science, but that’s too subtle for movie palaver.) And leading evolutionary thinker and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins—seen in several interviews—only gradually recognizes that he is being set up.
The talking-head stuff is intercut with shots of the besneakered Stein on the hoof, musing bland generalities about “democracy” over a generic Americana score. There’s also copious archival footage, little of which relates to the subject at hand. This is amusing for the first half-hour, as the filmmakers attempt to tie something called Big Science to ancient images of Communism; it’s even worth a giggle when John Lennon’s lyrics are juxtaposed with the face of Joseph Stalin. But when the music turns minor-key and Charles Darwin is explicitly blamed for the horrors of the Holocaust, you realize that Stein and company are really up to no good.
Modern politics are scrupulously avoided, so there’s no recognition that science itself has been under systematic attack for, oh, just about eight years. There are corporate interests to protect while conveniently pandering to a fundamentalist base that, in reality, is rapidly deserting Halliburton and company as the planet burns. That shouldn’t stop the fine minds behind Expelled, however. Next up, a “controversial” double bill of Galileo Got It Wrong and Gravity: Who the Hell Needs It?
For further coverage, read Storm gathers around Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed