The subheading of Celsius 41.11 is "the temperature at which the brain begins to die." It's a clever tag line, but more fitting to people who decide to watch this dreary documentary. Of all the political documentaries to arrive in theatres, conservatives have been conspicuously absent, mainly because they are not the ones really pissed off. Balance is a good thing, and the sheer amount of liberal documentaries is beginning to be maddeningly dull. Unfortunately, Celsius 41.11 is not the film to make people cheer for the right. It is another one of those films that preach to the converted, much along the lines of Fahrenheit 9/11. The difference between Michael Moore and Celsius director Kevin Knoblock is that Moore is a much better filmmaker. Still, both are not averse to taking cheap shots.
The cheap shots really stand out here because there is so little of anything else. Sure, anybody can find pictures where Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry look stupid. The same goes with George Bush and company. But what does that accomplish? It will make their supporters laugh. Knoblock and screenwriters Lionel Chetwynd (Ike: Countdown to D-Day, Human Bomb) and Ted Steinberg also suffer because they are playing a game of catch-up. Celsius 41.11 feels like a whiny response to Moore and other liberal filmmakers. Knoblock is not going over new ground, he is trying to clear Bush from charges leveled against him in numerous other documentaries. He does this by splitting the film into five sections, each one set on discrediting a hypothesis about the Bush administration. It is his position that the 2000 election was legitimate, Bush did all he could to prevent 9/11, the administration is not undermining civil liberties, every intelligence agency in the world believed that Iraq had WMD, and that the Bush administration is not creating a festering sense of resentment from the Islamic community.
And the film is as boring as it sounds. It's one thing to argue against a series of points. It's another to do it in a way that is entertaining. As frustrating as Moore can be, he was wildly successful in presenting his points in a funny, sarcastic way. Knoblock interviews a bunch of conservatives, and has some stock footage. Sure, these people include Sen. Fred Thompson, Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, and Michael Barone who are all extremely bright people, but everything coalesces into a political science lecture. Worse is Knoblock's tendency to shift the blame away from Bush by blaming Clinton. The Clinton administration did not do enough work in stopping bin Laden. The Clinton administration cozied up to Yasser Arafat, a terrorist. The evidence he presents looks sound, but it also makes him look extremely childish. It's all a matter of style, and here, the liberals and conservatives fall into very stereotypical camps, at least in the way they make movies. Knoblock takes a random turn near the end and goes on the attack against Kerry. Although there is a tangential relationship, this feels very out of place with the rest of the film.
Knoblock also makes fun of Moore, which, granted, is an easy thing to do, but a cheap shot nonetheless. He puts up quote's and funny pictures from Moore that may or may not be out of context. Either way, they sure suit his purpose. And like Moore, the information presented here is pretty one-sided for anybody who has a working knowledge of politics. The biggest example is that of Joseph Wilson, whom the administration sent to investigate charges that Saddam Hussein was buying WMD from Africa. This is not disputed. Everything after was. Other films have pointed out that Wilson's report was negative. Knoblock claims that his report supported the initial allegations. The worst part is that Knoblock completely ignored the fact that somebody outed Wilson's wife as a CIA operative (this is illegal), most likely in retribution for his report. It is a fact that this happened, and some suspect people in the White House of doing it. But including this doesn't help the film, so Knoblock conveniently leaves it out. The most fascinating aspect of Celsius 41.11 is how it relates to various other documentaries. It often takes the exact same information and comes up with the opposite conclusion. It picks and chooses the evidence that best supports its case and ignores the rest. The Patriot Act information clashes with that in Unconstitutional (which makes a very compelling case), and the 2000 election with Unprecedented. The WMD information is seems valid, yet does not mesh with Uncovered.
|Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.|
|1 hour, 12 minutes, Rated R for brief language and violent images.|
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