What the #$*! Do We Know!? (2004) / Documentary-Comedy
aka What the Bleep Do We Know!?
MPAA Rated: Unrated but I'd give it an R equivalent, for language, brief nudity and sexuality
Running Time: 108 min.
Cast: Marlee Matlin, Elaine Hendrix, Barry Newman, Robert Bailey Jr., John Ross Bowie, Ramtha
Director: William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Mark Vicente
Screenplay: William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Matthew Hoffman
Review published December 29, 2004
Let me state right off the bat that I'm not going to judge this film based on whether it is factual and scientific or whether it is a bunch of hooey. I am not in a position to claim anything which talks about things we cannot see or experience for ourselves is true or not, any more than I can discuss someone's personal brand of theology as being true or not. I have my own belief system that works for me, whether this may be ignorant or not, but until something else comes along to change it, it will remain as it is. All I will say is that after sitting for over 100+ minutes listening to the experts, and not-so-experts, talking about things such as the nature of reality, perception, emotion, and the universe, my belief system has remained unchanged.
For purposes of this review, it doesn't matter. It is not important whether I had a change of opinion on life or God, or the lack thereof. What is important, speaking as a movie reviewer, is whether or not I think it is a good film, or at least one worth recommending. Obviously, you can see from the amount of stars that I give it, I do not.
My reasons stem mostly from a presentation standpoint. What the Bleep Do We Know!? isn't so much a documentary, but an infomercial for quantum theory combined with a New Age religious philosophy, ostensibly promoted by Ramtha's School of Enlightenment. Again, I'm not judging -- I'm merely stating that, from my point of view, the purpose of the film wasn't so much to educate, but to sell a product, or more accurately, an idea that might lead to the consumption of products associated with a curiosity as to the beliefs contained within. (For a very interesting article, read this article from the Williamette Week Online).
Not that infomercials can't be enlightening in their own way. I mean, if you listen to the lingo of almost all of them, they all promise that their product will change your life in a major way. You will lead a happier, more rewarding, hassle-free life. Whether it's JZ Knight or Ron Popeil, they are, at their core, entertaining salespeople. Even though I never buy the product, I find watching the pasta machine with sausage extruder, or the GLH formula that sprays on a head of hair on a bald man, every bit as fascinating, and impossible to turn away from, as the content of the ideology behind What the Bleep do We Know!?
However, as interesting as this infomercial sometimes is, the fact remains that, unlike its television brethren which consist of 30 minute commercials, this is a grueling 108 minutes long. To contrast how dry this experience is, watching a food dehydrator make turkey jerky is interesting for a minute or so, and it might actually be tasty as well, but watching almost two hours of turkey jerky related material would not be my idea of high entertainment, regardless of whether Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God, Hear No Evil) is shown eating it while riding a subway train in Portland, or if you brought on a series of experts who all have their own recipes for turkey jerky. Sure, an emotive child playing basketball might grab my attention by telling me that one piece of jerky can exist in two places at once, or perhaps I'd be interested to know that the consumption of this jerky might lead to an addiction, because by gorging on it, I will become addicted to the point where my cells will divide into new cells, each craving the meaty morsel until I cannot be satiated, no matter how much I consume.
Hmm...I realize that some of you might think I'm being flippant about the importance of this film. For that I apologize. What I don't apologize for is growing restless from having to endure a 30 minute wedding party sequence that nearly induced me into a coma state from the redundancy. I don't apologize for disliking my brain cells being represented by CGI creatures that look like a cross between Slimer from Ghostbusters and a box of Jujubes. What I don't apologize for is a bunch of filmmakers that have deaf actress Marlee Matlin talking to herself out loud for no apparent reason, or talking on a cell phone (apparently she has one with full-motion video so she can read the lips of the caller??). Ah well...it wasn't all bad. I did enjoy the extended sequences of the woman in the mini-skirt bent over looking in the fridge for the dozen times it is shown.
All I'm trying to say here is that, even if I believed every single point brought up by in this film, chapter and verse, I cannot get past the fact that it is twice as long as it needed to be, and only half as substantive. I'm not speaking as a skeptic, or a religious zealot here, but as a film buff who is pissed off I had to endure such a lackluster attempt at crafting a documentary. If you want to see interesting theories on quantum physics, watch the Science channel. If you want to see a documentary, turn on IFC. If you want to see an infomercial, stay up until 3am and channel surf to your heart's content.
I'm also upset that all of this negative energy I'm feeling from watching this film has been wreaking havoc on my supply of bottled water. Oops, I've crossed the line again, and am making fun. I'm a bad, bad movie critic who should not be listened to. *SIGH* Go ahead. If you're really that interested, then by all means see it. After all, what the #$*! do I know!?
©2004 Vince Leo