Expelled is a really, truly, awful movie. Even setting aside its errors and its Holocaust nigh-denial, it’s just a badly assembled bit of cinema. It’s offensive and absurd to compare the events of the Cold War to the treatment of the supposed martyrs: the folks who variously were called bad names, didn’t get tenure because they didn’t publish research or get grants, the one who didn’t get a new contract after failing to live up to the previous one, etc. People starved behind the Berlin Wall. They were sent to Siberia, and not in any figurative sense.
It’s doubly offensive for Stein to set himself up as some sort of Cold Warrior. Ben Stein isn’t Reagan. He isn’t Nixon. He isn’t Thatcher. He’s not even George Herbert Walker Bush. The movie is just self-aggrandizement on his part. If there were even a glimmer of self-awareness, a touch of self-mockery at some point along the tedious, petty and entirely trivial course of the movie, it might have been salvageable. But there isn’t. All it has are poorly edited footage that appears to have been shot by an eight-year old with ADD. Whether the cinematographer even had a tripod is unclear, and he or she surely didn’t have a light meter, or any means to focus the camera consistently.
The Holocaust sections of the movie aren’t just deeply, deeply offensive, they are also bizarrely disconnected from the rest of the movie. For a while, the director tries to put together a fake film-within-a-film, but it was poorly executed, overly long for its conceit, and never really wrapped up. Its like the director just lost interest in the idea. If that scheme were to run through the whole movie, it shouldn’t start half an hour in, and the film should maintain that light-hearted, satirical feel. But it doesn’t, and it carries on too long for it just to be a brief bit. When the conceit of the film-within-a-film recurs, it takes too long to remember what’s going on. It’s a gag that could have been funny, had the director, actor or writer possessed any comedic talent at all.
Don’t waste your time. Rent Mr. Death: The Rise & Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr. if you want a look at the way technical expertise can mislead, the way science can be misused, and the way a basically decent person can be dragged into Holocaust denial. Then reflect on the far less honorable path taken by Ben Stein and his new friends at the Disco. Inst.