Merchants of Doubt

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: +2

Documentary from Sony Classics Pictures. Directed by Robert Kenner.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Sony Classics Pictures presents this documentary concerning pundits-for-hire who present themselves as scientific authorities while discussing topics such as toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and climate change. (You’ll quickly determine that it has a decidedly one-sided approach.)

PREVIEW REVIEW: Merchants of Doubt is a slight-of-hand attack on corporations, with all the subtlety of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. That said, the film presents an argument worth examining concerning greed and falsehood that seems prevalent in many areas where commerce is the bottom line. Quite frankly, big business, like big government and big media, is easily corrupted. Money trumps all. That’s not cynical, just a fact. This is pointed out in this documentary with several stinkers exposed as paid mouthpieces who seem to feel that if the lie is believed, then it becomes truth.

Capitalism only works if it’s done so with truth and justice prevails. So, while I tend to lean conservative, I won’t hide my head and pretend that all industrial leaders have our best interests at heart. And no matter their intended goal, watchdog groups that call out evildoers are needed.

Paddy Chayefsky eloquently addressed how we are led by those in charge in his perceptive and still relevant film script for Network:

“You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no Third Worlds. There is no West… There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont. Dow. Union Carbide. And Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today…We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale.”

There is, however, another aspect of the finger-pointing by activists – they also have a cause, and often they commit what they condemn. Director Robert Kenner’s sleight-of-hand methods attack corporate America while avoiding the strengths of capitalism, and America itself. And though the subjects he spotlights deserve serious attention, in a film the lack of humor can make said film deadly dull.

Like most leftist activists, this exposé is humorless. They have a right to be angry, but a little humor would help make the medicine go down.

It’s all rather heavy-handed. Case in point: whenever the filmmaker can associate Fox News with interviewees who tell lies, they do so. Each time someone says something silly or false, it’s pictured on a Fox News program, as if that network is fostering such wrongs. In truth, those being interviewed were presenting the same cases on all the networks. Seldom are the other networks being associated with those giving false information. Indeed, we finally see Diane Sawyer from ABC reporting the downfall of the bad guys. The same downfall was pronounced on Fox News Network. But those on that network are not given any credit.

It appears from this production that in the eyes of the liberals, conservatives are misleading and dishonest. Now, I’m not attempting to defend Fox News or conservative politicians, but the same accountability the filmmaker demands from them doesn’t seem to be applied to those on the other side of the aisle. At least, that’s how it came across to me.

I would like to offer up Thank You for Smoking as a DVD alternative concerning the tobacco industry (but I must offer a warning as the film is justly rated R. Please read the entire review before deciding to view it.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Sony Classics

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Reading from a hate email, we hear a couple of obscenities

Profanity: None

Violence: None

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: None

Running Time: 96 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature

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