I saw it, so you don't have to: Ben Stein's 'Expelled'

Expelled_lIn retrospect, I really shoulda known better. I’d clicked through the bottom-of-the-barrel Rotten Tomatoes rating, the various erudite bloggers slamming it, and, of course, my esteemed cubicle-neighbor Adam Markovitz’s scathing D-grade review. But still, it had Ben Stein! He was funny in Ferris Bueller! And me, I have a slight glutton-for-punishment streak. So I succumbed to therelentless TV ad campaign earlier this week and went to see a matinee showing ofthe anti-evolution documentary Expelled. Worst decision ever.

Aside from its loony-fringe politics and sheer stupidity — think, for a moment, about how dumb you’d have to be to subtitle your deadly serious pseudo-science film "No Intelligence Allowed" — this movie is just excruciatingly bad from an aesthetic perspective. Imagine if the grating schoolteacher Stein played in Bueller got a whole movie to himself, and it was a holier-than-thou culture-war diatribe instead of a fizzy teen comedy, and also Stein’s character was revealed to be an ignorant creep with a penchant for wildly inappropriate Holocaust references. Now I understand why Ferris wanted that day off so desperately!

Anyone else sit through this monstrous excuse for a movie? I stuck around for the whole thing, and never have 90 minutes felt longer. I actually started groaning and muttering at the screen when Stein shamelessly exploited the memory of the millions whom Hitler murdered — which, apparently, was Charles Darwin’s fault somehow?! (Seriously, what was Stein thinking with that?) I’d apologize to the audience members who were irritated by my involuntary heckling, but there were only like four of them, and they were people who had paid money to see Expelled, so I don’t really feel too bad. Anyway, take it from me: Do not see this movie under any circumstances. Not ironically, not so you can mock it in the footnotes of your Ph.D dissertation on molecular biology, not even because you think it might make a funny "I saw it, so you don’t have to" blog item. And if you already made the mistake I did and subjected yourself to this stinker, go ahead and vent your feelings below — and please accept my condolences…

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  • movcritic

    I had to see this to review it for my paper. The first mistake I made was reading the press notes before screening “Expelled” with a theater full of Republican congressmen (yes, men) and their aides. Knowing nothing about the film ahead of time, I was intrigued by the odd title and by the fact that Ben Stein was the face of the film. Then I opened the press kit. Calling itself a “satirical documentary” (which I don’t think conveys what the filmmakers meant it to), “Expelled” is a juvenile, Michael Moore wannabe, poorly made film that equates evolution with Naziism and jack-booted militarism. I’m sure at least one senator heard me gasping in the back corner of the theater. It’s flat-out dreadful. And the interviews with the scientists who support the theory of evolution are shot in such menacing shadows that I half expected to see someone with a smoke machine lurking behind them as they spoke to make them appear more devilish.

  • John

    See, the above review displays what the science of logic calls an “ad hominem” attack. Also, a “straw man” fallacy, where you exaggerate the position of your opponent to make their position look ridiculous. Just saw the movie. Is it good aesthetically? It’s so-so–some major problems. But the arguments it puts forth are worth discussing. And in no way does Ben Stein ever say that the Holocaust is Darwin’s fault. What he DOES say is that Hitler used Darwinian theory to justify a lot of what he did, and that is historically accurate and provable. The premise of the film is that true science has been squelched by those who believe Darwin should not be questioned. And the above review reiterates that truth by not addressing a single point but merely name calling. It’s a bit silly.

  • Stephanie T.

    Just a side note if I may? Before Stein played a history teacher in Ferris Buller, he actually WAS a high school teacher. However, while Stein is intellgent, the preview of the movie looked unintelligent and sloppy.

  • Ben Stein’s Money

    simon, you’re a cutie, particularly the glazed-eyes from watching right-wing propaganda

  • r.gou

    Typical liberal rant on the first review. Never address the issue but just ridicule the film.
    It is absolutely true that Hitler used Darwins theory to justify the holocast.
    The University’s do not tolerate any discussion of any liberal theory (it may be that they cant stand examination.I don’t understand their position. They are more like the flat earth people who would not discuss it. All the scientists agreed so of course it had to be true. Sound familiar?

  • Martha

    I have to agree with John here; there is ample evidence that the Nazis used the concepts of evolution and natural selection to suit their own despicable political ends. Richard Dawkins and the bloggers on his website can find all sorts of arcane sources in which “Nazis” and “evolution” don’t appear together, but you only have to visit the Holocaust Museum in DC to see how science was grossly misapplied by the Third Reich. That said, however, it doesn’t sound like this movie offers a nuanced, even-handed view of that issue or any others surrounding evolution. Think I’ll give it a miss.

  • daisyj

    Um, so, what exactly is the movie about? Darwinism? The Holocaust? Lindsey Lohan playing her own twin?

  • birdgirl39

    I haven’t seen this movie, nor shall I ever, on purpose, but I found this story related to the film. Check it out…..
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080423/film_nm/lennon_film_dc_1;_ylt=AgV1X27iBKQkd4BBaHSgf0kE1vAI

  • mscisluv

    r. gou – A grammar lesson: “Darwin’s theory” needs an apostrophe because it is possessive. The plural of university is “universities” and does not use an apostrophe.

  • fribster

    The issue is not whether or not the Nazis used Darwin for their own evil, misguided, inaccurate purposes, the issue is that what the Nazis did with Darwin has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not intelligent design is a valid scientific theory that should be taught in science classes. Guess what? It is not. No valid scientific theory has multiple steps that say: “hey, guess what, we have no idea how this happens so insert magic here”. When your best response in a debate is associating your foe with Hitler, you’ve lost the argument.

  • John

    Let me start by saying that, once again, I agree that this is in NO WAY a brilliant movie. But it does raise a worthy argument. The film begins by interviewing several scientists and professors who lost tenure, privileges, and even jobs for discussing Intelligent Design. Many of them are not Christians. The film goes to great lengths to separate Intelligent Design from Creationism; I feel it actually proves they are separate. The basic premise of the film, then, is that science in America has become restricted, where legitimate questioning of the principles of Darwinism in the name of fair and good science is frowned upon and even restricted. Hence the title: “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” While I don’t agree with the whole movie, it raises some points worthy of intelligent discussion, the biggest of all being “Why isn’t there more intelligent discussion?”

  • Chuckie D.

    The premise of the film isn’t that Hitler used Darwin to justify his acts, but that Darwin directly led to the holocaust, which is ludicrous. What directly led to the holocaust was a millenia of Christian anti-semitism …just sayin’.

  • John Book

    Actually fribster, there is a point in the movie where Richard Dawkins, noted atheist and author of “The God Delusion,” does the very thing you just said: He says, “I don’t know how everything got there” and then, right there on camera, posits that perhaps an advanced race of aliens brought life to the planet. If that isn’t “we have no idea…insert magic” then I don’t know what is. And the Nazism point is a small point in the film, in no way the main point or the strongest argument in favor of ID. You have to listen to each argument and study the science to dissect it. You can’t just say “Guess what? It’s not” and be right. Why is it not?

  • John

    Chuckie D–sounds like you haven’t actually seen the movie, because that’s not the premise in the least. Again, the Holocaust section is small, and the implication is merely this: the worldview of Darwinism opened a door for justification for such horrific acts. Multiple times they say, “Most Darwinists would never do something like that, but…” And real Christians have never been anti-semitic. Real ones.

  • joanna

    There is one major point that is often left out of the evolution vs. intelligent design debate. Evolution is a scientific theory that is based on a huge amount of physical, scientific evidence. Intelligent design is a literary theory based on a huge amount of faith in the bible. They are not comparable, and no science teacher is qualified to, nor should they be required to, teach literature. Intelligent design is an approriate topic for a philosophy class, not a biology class. No matter what your beliefs are, religion is not science, and to treat it as such is detrimental to everyone.

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