Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
2008, PG, 90 min. Directed by Nathan Frankowski.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 25, 2008
Make Ben Stein some more money (and get a good, mordant chuckle while you're at it) by checking out this loopy, factually befuddled documentary that should manage the not-inconsiderable feat of insulting Christians, Jews, Muslims, and those nutty sci-guys who go in for Darwin by way of bad teeth and Einsteinian hair styles. Expelled begins with the interesting if not exactly accurate hypothesis that legitimate, well-respected members of the American scientific community are systematically being blacklisted and shorn of their university positions simply for mentioning, in any context other than the negative, the notion of "intelligent design." Any currency that the film might offer from here on out, however, is obliterated – often entertainingly so – by having Stein, a former Nixon speechwriter-attorney and current pop-culture personality, drolly snark his way through an increasingly bizarre series of interviews. He speaks with both the pro-intelligent design gang and their opposing number, the "Darwinists," who are here best represented by Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and author of the bestselling book The God Delusion. Dawkins more than holds his own in a film that, as it progresses, manages to feel more and more like a very expensive episode of Punk'd. As Stein poses loaded and leading questions to his subjects, there's an obvious, predetermined answer (Darwin bad, intelligent design good) hovering over everything. Director Frankowski goes archival-clip-happy, inserting images of everything from Nikita Khrushchev to the Berlin Wall, until finally, gruesomely, Stein travels to a Nazi concentration camp, stopping along the way to smarm off about eugenics, abortion, and the perils of Stalinism. The message is obvious if exceedingly vile: Darwin's theory of evolution is leading us all to a literal hell on Earth. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is propaganda that'd do Leni Riefenstahl proud (although it's nowhere near as invitingly sensual), but it entirely – and conveniently – overlooks the root cause of the entire evolution vs. intelligent design nondebate: Basic science education in America has been in decline for so long that we are now regularly ranked far below emerging global powers such as China, India, and the entirety of the European Union. Ignorance may be bliss, but encouraging it, as Expelled does, ought to be a crime.