What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? (2004)

(In theaters, January 2005) This is a very frustrating film, one that drove me from one extreme to another in mere seconds. On the surface, it tries to be an metaphysical exploration of the limits of contemporary science, wrapped in a fictional frame story that leads off to interviews with experts. Fine. And, indeed, in some respects the film does an amazing job at presenting aspects of quantum physics in ways to make any science geek cheer in recognition. Time and time again, the film has a line or two that made me want to squeal little satisfied glees of agreement. And as long as it keeps this “isn’t it neat?” attitude, as long as it keeps up the pretence that we’re just joshing around with stuff we’re beginning to understand, there’s nothing wrong here. But then there is the other stuff. The framing story (featuring a lovely Marlee Matlin) is hit-and-miss: The beginning is painful, as it laboriously sets up its own set of visual metaphors and emotional triggers. The mid-point wedding sequence is good fun, as all the set-up pays off, and the party really gets going once the accordion is unleashed. Unfortunately, it soon bogs down under the weight of its growing self-importance, a problem that is shared by the entire film as a whole. You see, What The Bleep Do We Know? soon leaves amused scientific speculation to turns into yet another new-age “what you wish for will become true” crapfest. The interviewee’s identity are kept hidden until the end for a good reason: At least one of them is a crackpot guru with no scientific credentials; many of the rest are also heavily into the woo-woo stuff. (Too bad: I liked Fred Alan Wolf’s kindly-mad-scientist shtick) And that, in turn, explains the various moments in the film where you go “What? That doesn’t make sense!” It gets progressively more painful as the film descends into hard-core “science says wishful thinking is real!” nonsense. I can deal with limited amounts of “what if?” thinking, but this soon turns into “as if!” stuff. Pure frustration, and you know what? Real honest scientific speculation, the kind that doesn’t require feel-good new-age nonsense, is even more wonderful that this stuff.

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