Witless Protection

I’m watching this movie right now on Showtime. Unfortunately, the funniest part so far is the title.

Larry the Cable Guy plays a small-town deputy with big dreams about becoming an F.B.I. agent. Somehow, he’s banging Jenny McCarthy, who is still not past her expiration date at 36 (in real life, not the movie). She works at some food service place thing and the F.B.I. comes in with a lady in the witness protection program while Larry is there and somehow (I was trying not to pay attention) he ends up confiscating this chick from the F.B.I. guys and going on the run. So now the men in black dudes are trying to find them and Larry for some reason is trying to bang this girl who is less hott than his gf Jenny and I have no idea why. The witness protection girl is a bitch and Jenny shows no signs of being anything other than a great girlfriend so wtf?

There’s a lot of racial humor that doesn’t really make sense. Like the black F.B.I. guy orders coffee and Jenny McCarthy asks “black?”… cuz he’s black… get it?… I don’t either. Then later when Cable Guy and witness girl check into a hotel the clerk is the middle eastern lookin mofo from 40 year old virgin and there’s some references to his accent and nationalism and — why is he stealing this girl away from the government? I still don’t get this. And why is this girl the main female supporting actor when all the promo stuff has Jenny on it? And who is being made fun of exactly I’m not totally sure. Are the racial jokes supposed to be jokes?

Larry and witness girl go to the airport for some reason and have trouble with security cuz the mall-cop type TSA employees are drunk with power in a few digs at the Patriot act. Awesome humor in this scene includes noting that Larrys feet stink and then him shitting on a TSA guy? I think? They strip search him in full view so he’s nude and just covering his junk out there in front of everyone and they decide to investigate what might be a fuse coming out of his ass by a cavity search. Larry warns them that they don’t want to do that, but they do, and something terrible happens off screen to lead another employee to page “officer down!” before a smash-cut to another “meanwhile” scene.

this is what I look for in a movie. always.

While driving, Larry calls a friend and asks him to punch up the DOJ (Department of Justice) website for him. The friend asks “Dynomite Juggs?” I laughed. I wasn’t sure exactly how I was supposed to react when Larry now on the phone with someone else notes that “News travels fast – faster than Angelina Jolie adoptin jungle babies”. Really?…

The internetz says this movie was released in was released in theaters on February 22, 2008 but I never heard of it. You didn’t either? That’s odd. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 0% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 24 reviews.

Expelled Review

I saw Ben Steins documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, about the wall (cleverly used in an ongoing Berlin Wall analogy in the film) academic elites have constructed around science so as to bar any attempt to explain the existence of the universes infinite complexity by postulating that it was the work of an intelligent being instead of random unguided accidents

The film has already generated the expected lot of haters and then some, but I’ve yet to read an accurate beef about the movie being non-science or at all dishonest – which are the 2 claims that populate every article attacking the movie at least 37 and a half times. There is plenty wrong with the movie in its angle, presentation and delivery, so it seems all the more silly that those who have a problem with religion tampering its filthy little fingers into the purity of science are in such a stink over this film.

I’m going to run down what I observed as being good or bad in the movie, somewhat in the order of severity and in no order between good and bad. See below:

BAD: Too long to tell us what these terms mean. A much smaller percentage of the audience than I think was assumed, is actually aware of what the hell the terms that the movie orbits around even mean. The definitions of Creationism vs Intelligent Design and Darwinism vs Evolution are not made clear until an excruciating 40 minutes into the film. I saw the movie with 5 other people and if they were other 5 people than the ones they were, I very well may have walked out over this issue within those first 40 minutes. They were clearly enjoying the film or at least finding it interesting, and up until the definitions were articulated (too briefly I think), I was thinking I was in the uncomfortable position to have to tell them after we walked out of the theater that “I know you liked it, BUT – um. some of it was kind of crap…”. FINALLY though, the detentions come, but too late for anyone who may be confused or an opponent on the issue.

The clarification between those 2 pairs is crucial and it was a huge mistake to wait soooo bloody long before telling the audience what is what because it kills the movie as a persuasive piece. No one can now, or should tell someone who agree’s with the “expelling” of teachers who mention ID in the classroom to go see Expelled as a mind changer. The reason is because those who attack ID supporters almost always either lie about what ID is and means, or dont really know what it is because they haven’t bothered to investigate or learn about something they have written off as utterly ridiculous and dogmatic masquerading as science related.

For the record, here are brief definitions of the 4 terms:

CREATIONISM: a religious belief that the bible is literally true, and can be supported by science. The 6 day Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark are all things to be supported through physics, archeology and whatever else. Theories are abound: Since the earth is only a few thousand years old, maybe Jesus had a pet stegosaurus. That kind of thing.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN: angle of scientific research stemming from the hypothesis that the universe was Created by an intelligent force and not through random or accidental occurrences.

DARWINISM: Charles Darwins attempt to explain the origin of species by mutations in genes aided by natural selection. fails to answer many life origin questions.

EVOLUTION: genetic change over time. provable. observable. change. Factual evolution is change within species (birds in different areas growing different more efficient beaks or breeding dogs to have certain features). A Darwinist view of evolution claims change beyond that is how species came to be – meaning, if we had enough time, we could breed a dog into a giraffe.

Got it? The film is about Intelligent Design, and Darwinism. NOT Creationism and Evolution. The latter debate is an entirely separate divide going on in different circles of society that are untouched in Expelled.
Creationism is often claimed to be the same thing as ID probably because Creationists support ID as a watered down version of Creationism, despite the love being only seldom returned (think of it as the claim that racists support republicans, therefore republicans are racists and communists/socialists support democrats therefore democrats are communists/socialists. in some cases in both parties – they can be. but mostly not. and in philosophy, not at all).

Understanding these terms is key to appreciating or enjoying the movie pretty much at all, so this should have been dealt with right away.

GOOD: No one was smeared. Thank goodness and bravo for that. Unlike every documentary I can think of off the top of my head, released in the last 6 years, Expelled did not play the game of mocking the fool, embarrassing its intellectual opponents or gratuitously ridiculing those on the opposite side.
There weren’t even any “gotcha” clips that make up the majority of criticism of so many left wing documentaries. There were no clips where an interviewee would say something and then CUT – we would see something right afterward that makes what they just said look retarded beyond belief, or make them look personally like an asshole.

One shot in particular was handled great in that a current administrator of a school that had fired one of the previously interviewed gentleman had said that gentleman was a pleasant and intelligent man worthy of respect (paraphrase) – to which Stein narrates in a voice over something along the lines of “thats not exactly the case” – but is followed by the reading, in person of an email the administrator had sent to the fired person, basically calling him an idiot that should be ignored. He handles it awkwardly, but it wasn’t a setup or ambush, was a fair challenge and his full response and answer was featured.

GOOD: The thesis of the film is on freedom, not religion. Expelled stays true to its title and doesn’t divert significantly (though slightly in a few areas) from the main point which is entirely about a free flow of ideas, freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom to learn. It’s not an argument that Darwinistic evolution is bad, false, or phony science – its an argument that the questions and blank spots in it should be freely admitted, challenged and discussed. There’s no bait and switch. You go to see a movie about academic freedom, and thats what you get.

BAD: Dark Dawkins. Richard Dawkins is featured in two interviews. In the first, he is in a very dimly lit room where in some camera angles it can even be seen that the curtain to a nearby window is half pulled shut. Since his second interview is normally lit, this could just have been coincidence – supported by other odd but interesting interview camera choices like having a low show where we’re looking up into one guys (a supporter) nose, or shooting parts of the interview looking into the room from outside the hall so Stein and the interviewee fill odd portions of the frame – however, I would have probably lightened up the footage in post if that were the case. Otherwise it could send the subtle message that Dawkins is “in the dark” or more ominous somehow than even the dialog, commentary or editing of the actual interview would otherwise imply (all were done fairly). Its just one of those things that takes a baby step toward the Michael Moore type demagoguery that should be avoided even in small instances like this.

BAD: Use of stock mixed with mock stock. The film uses a lot of cute and clever 20’s to 50’s era stock film footage to highlight, illustrate or tease a given point. But it also uses footage produced by Expelled that is made to look the same as the old stuff. I don’t really like that. I want to know at all times what is stock and what is mock.

BAD: Ben the inquisitor. Ben Stein is uber smart. Aside from playing deadpan intellectuals in movies and television, he has an impressive intellectual background as a pundit, speechwriter, speaker and economist. In the late 90’s, Comedy Central ran a game show, which I enjoyed, based entirely on the premise that Ben Stein knows EVERYTHING and can take on the random knowledge of any random people daily. So it came off as a little phony the way Stein frames some of the segways of the movie as “I needed to learn more about this” or “I wanted to investigate further”. It was like, dude…come on. You know this stuff already. You’re not learning along with us. You’re teaching, or at least lecturing the audience on it..aren’t you? I don’t know, but am highly suspect that those parts of the film were staged. Needlessly in my opinion.

GOOD: Use of actual (in context) arguments of opponents. Not only are the atheists featured in the movie not smeared, but included with the dialog from their interviews are comments that Stein leaves open to debate. Stein does not make use of the same authoritarianism as, say, Moore or Sperlock documentaries where only footage of opponents that can be immediately attacked and dissected are shown to us. Instead, Stein shows a lot of statements from opponents that would make anyone who agree’s with them say “ya, right on”, instead of choosing snippets to embarrass and demean. Even at the end of the movie with the big second interview with Richard Dawkins, it ends with Dawkins quoting someone else’s answer of what he would say if he died and met God, which was: “Why did you go to such lengths to hide from me?”. Instead of being a jerk about it and going into a long winded religious spiel about how God doesn’t hide and where the evidence is and blah blah blah – Stein simply poses the question that “what if” God didn’t go to much lengths at all and we could actually discover a Creator through science. Not “we can” or “we must”. But “what if”. A sensible, liberal, logical response that is actually the foundation of the movies exploration into the subject.

BAD: The speech Stein gives was staged. The speech that bookends the movie at beginning and end seemed a tiny bit fishy to me because the camera angles would show his front and back up on stage too close together. Michael Moore did this in a far more insidious way when he ambushed Charlton Heston in Bowling For Columbine, because at the end of his little confrontation where he’s holding a picture of a girl killed by a gun and asking Heston to apologize to it (wtf?) he is standing on a walkway that is too narrow to have 2 camera men. So Heston was filmed over Moore’s shoulder and then when he went back into his house, Moore “re-enacted” the speech he gave Heston with the picture so the camera guy could get Moore’s half of it and intercut the footage. Same thing with Stein on stage. We see him from the front, but then also from the back a second later and there is no camera man standing in front of him. I could be wrong on that point, but I googled it and found out that even if I’m mistaken about how it was shot – the speech was in fact staged. How dumb to stage something like that. Especially when Stein gives so many speeches on this and other topics. He couldn’t have just brought his documentary crew along one time?? Bad form Stein…

BAD: The inside-the-cell animation. To illustrate how complex the cell was, an animation showing the inner workings to us is shown. As analogized in the movie – if Darwin thought the cell was a Buick, then what we know it to be today is a galaxy. Then some fun music is played as we watch CGI cell-city go hard at work. Okay… except I had no idea what was going on and it looked like science fiction to me. A voice over should have been explaining, even if sped up or overlapped, the complex science of what I was looking at.

BAD: Too much holocaust. Way too much. The Nazi’s use of Darwinism and the notation of how key a Darwinistic view of life is to holding what would otherwise be considered patently foolish, unwise and unscientific views of racism was an important point to raise. But the detour of that into the emotion surrounding the actual events of the holocaust was a tad over the top. We didnt need to revisit the sites and scenes where the genocide took place, nor in extended detail with somber music, to support Steins point. It was a detour. An emotional appeal to an otherwise solidly intellectual argument.

BAD: Hitler and Darwinism lack of details. Darwinism being centric to Hitlers ideology is a fair and fine point, but Stein explains it so little that he is practically asking to be unfairly attacked over the issue. What the movie says on the subject is simple, historically verifiable and true. But we live in an age of reactionary stupidity that documentary filmmakers should be aware of so people like me don’t have to explain a hundred times that “no stupid, the movie didn’t say that if you’re a Darwinist then you’re a Nazi”. Selective hearing like that is common enough that it should be anticipated and dealt with beforehand a little better.
Militant atheists want you to believe Hitler was Christian, or at least in some way religious. He was neither of course, but I’ve seen a lot of for reaching atheist arguments on the subject over the years, such as because Hitler was born and baptized Catholic that somehow overrules that he killed Catholics and burned down their churches or because he positively referenced Christianity in speeches somehow overrules other statements where he seems to give away his whole “say religious sounding stuff in order to rule a majority Christian nation” strategy. The movie would have benefited greatly from cutting out some of the emotional Holocaust scenes and replacing them with some more clarity on the Hitler-Darwinist thing so as to avoid attacks over things that weren’t said (for instance, I’ve already heard somebody claim that the movie says a Darwinistic view makes you racist, despite the movie saying it certainly does not and thats not the point at least twice).

Evolution almost positively explains changes within species. But, as Stein says: “does it explain where life came from? No. Does it explain where matter came from? No. Does it explain where energy came from? … doesn’t explain any of those things, so it is a theory which, at best, it explains a very teeny part of the puzzle.”

NOTE: If you think I missed something good or bad, then I’ll listen to your inquiry, but I JUST saw the movie and haven’t had time to fact check it in any significant length, so if your criticism is that I missed points where Stein was proven to distort something, fudge a fact, or twist things in his argument in any way, please send those things instead to BowlingForTruth@gmail.com for the upcoming Expelled section on BowlingForTruth.com. thanks.