It snowed in Malibu on the day leading up to the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, unexpected publicity for directors Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand's timely but surprisingly misguided global warming documentary "Everything's Cool." Playing bookend to the similarly themed "An Inconvenient Truth," about former Vice President Al Gore's crusade to bring attention to Earth's dwindling ozone layer, means replacing Gore's earnestness with colorful characters, peppy animation, lively music and frequently comical banter. But the environmental message, the soul of the movie, gets lost in the playful mix.
Subjects who pass by Gold and Helfand's camera include Bish Neuhauser, a good ol' boy employee at a Park City Utah ski resort, who starts his own bio-fuel business. The on-air profile of Weather Channel analyst Heidi Cullen increases as global warming becomes a topical issue. Longtime global warming researchers Bill McKibben and Ross Gelbspan watch their work gain new popularity.
The dance that sums up the film is the tussle between scientists striving for new policies to stem global warming and the Washington DC lobbyists who advocate affordable fossil fuels. The dividing line between the two camps is that there is no such thing as one hundred percent certainty in science, allowing the global warming debate to continue.
Global warming is a serious topic but Gold and Helfand treat it lightly. It's a fair decision on their part, one true to their filmmaking modus operandi of their best-known film "Blue Vinyl." "Everything's Cool" is comical and eye-catching, bouncy and bubbly, best summed up as Comedy Central-style documentary filmmaking. It's a polished diversion; nothing more and a missed opportunity to offer a new take on the global warming debate.
The best thing about "Everything's Cool" is how Gold and Helfand transform their participants from talking-head interviews to something akin to friendly visits, a type of road movie. In these scenes, the film's laid-back atmosphere pays off. The second impressive feat by Gold and Helfand is their fair treatment of all subjects no matter their side of the issue. The pro-energy industry lobbyists come off as hardworking types. Meanwhile, celebrity advocates Salma Hayek and Jake Gyllenhaal's publicity appearance at an Arctic village comes off as silly.
Granted, I found much of the Gore lecture footage in "An Inconvenient Truth" painfully dull but Gold and Helfand go too far on the side of laughs with "Everything's Cool." There's nothing wrong with playing for jokes but not at the expense of disengaging one's audience.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Steve Ramos is an award-winning film writer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. When not on assignment, he maintains the blog Flyover Online.
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