World's Fair

A few days ago, I had a chance (with other ScienceBloggers) to check out Randy Olson’s new flick, Sizzle. Now let me first start by saying that I’m hardly a movie aficionado – my favourite movie is still Star Wars, and to be honest the last few movies I saw before this one were Camp Rock, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Kung Fu Panda – can you guess we have kids at my household?). Still, I think I do have a decent handle on the ins and outs of communicating science, which ultimately this movie has as a central device.


The movie itself is a mockumentary and highlights Randy’s plight to produce a documentary on global warming. Specifically a movie that focuses on interviewing a variety of high profile scientists who happen to be on both sides of the debate.

And herein lies the primary premise of the movie – i.e. that the description above hardly sounds like an engaging avenue for someone to drop $12 or so bucks and spend 2 hours in a darken room to check out, no matter the importance of the content or intent. Furthermore, this might just be microcosm of the overall problem with how many of the sciences handle their outreach these days.

So, under the guise of a mockumentary, Randy tries to add entertainment value to the science communicating process by having a little fun with the how filming such a movie in the company of a variety of characters (the film crew, the film backers, etc) might take place.

I won’t give too many details on specifically what goes on in the movie, but I will say that I did enjoy the movie and that I thought it was entertaining and even funny in places. Maybe “amusing” is the best word I can find for it? Whether it was (or maybe more importantly, “will be”) effective is another matter. This has more to do with whether such a title can compete for your time and money in a culture awash with so many other entertainment options – that is the harder call. To be honest, I’m not sure whether it has those kinds of legs, although I think it would be lovely if it did. Again, note the last few movies I had a chance to check out.

It’s hard, but in these days of entertainment, maybe the mockumentary could have gone a little further in the campiness – like by having some musical numbers?, CGIing the polar bears to talk, to sing even?, some good old fashion kung fu? Might be the sort of thing it needs to ensure that a decent movie becomes a decent movie that gets noticed more.

I know this is kind of sad (and ironically it’s something that is humorously addressed in the movie itself), but it’s unfortunately one of those nuggets of reality we have to deal with these days.

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