Friday, October 8, 2004
After reviewing such formulaic productions as "First Daughter" and "Shark Tale" the past few weeks, it's hard not to at least admire "What the Bleep Do We Know!?" for attempting something different.
This unusual effort tackles quantum physics, and tries to illustrate these heady theories by combining documentary, narrative and animation styles of filmmaking.
Atypical, sure. But it is also one of the most annoying movies of the year.
Watching this loopy exercise is like being stuck at a science fair, with a 5-year-old on one side asking questions and his hippie parents on the other fumbling to answer them.
"Why are we here?"
What the #$*! Do We Know!? *
Documentary, narrative and animation styles combine to illustrate the theories of quantum psychics. Atypical, sure. But it is also one annoying movie. Watching this loopy exercise is like being stuck at a science fair, with a 5-year-old on one side asking questions and his hippie parents on the other fumbling to answer them.
"What is reality?"
"Have you ever seen yourself through the eyes of someone else you've become?"
The bulk of the film is comprised of "14 experts," whose philosophical and scientific ramblings are intercut with other images. Sometimes these take the form of peppy animation, other times they are acted out.
The central character during these dramatic passages is Amanda, a deaf photographer played by Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin ("Children of a Lesser God"). Amanda is a pill-popping divorcee who is dealing with the same struggles as most folks: aging, career indecisions, relationship troubles, etc.
If you think the cast of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" had a difficult task reacting to things that weren't there, picture Matlin saddled with the near impossible role of giving a grounded performance in this environment -- whether playing basketball with a teleporting kid or zooming through the universe on bands of light. This leads to numerous closeups of the actress where she is relegated to one of two looks: confused or beatific.
It's the most embarrassing role for Matlin since appearing in that horrid Billy Joel video for "We Didn't Start the Fire."
William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente co-wrote and co-directed this hodgepodge (also titled in some press materials as "What the #$*! Do We Know!?"). It's safe to say the collective is not what you would call an "actor's director."
The team relies on interviews with talking heads who remain unidentified until the end credits. At first the viewer assumes they are scientists or philosophers, but as the film progresses they seem more like a random bunch of crazy people. And when one expert is eventually revealed to be Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old sage from the sunken city of Atlantis (as "channeled" by blond psychic JZ Knight), the line further points to inmates running the asylum.
It's not that "What the Bleep" doesn't bring up some interesting ideas -- fascinating concepts such as two objects being able to occupy the same space and "Sliding Doors"-like paths of alternate realities are introduced. The movie is just executed poorly when illustrating these formidable issues.
It's hard to seem cutting-edge when your soundtrack comes across like John Tesh leftovers.
And it's equally tough to be taken seriously when the most energetic segment in your film involves a bunch of gelatinous creatures lip-synching to Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love."