Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for eXpelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Okay, so I'm cheating on this one.  But seriously, apart from the X-Men films (which I reviewed last year), how many film titles start with X?  And this particular title is far too abhorrent to ignore....


USA, 2008
Running Length: 90 minutes
Cast: Ben Stein, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Sanger
Director:  Nathan Frankowski
Screenplay: Ben Stein and Kevin Miller
Cinematography: Nathan Frankowski

If there was ever a film certain to divide audiences, this is it.  Ben Stein contends that academics across America and the world are being fired for promoting or even exploring the possibility that there is an alternative theory to Darwinist evolution.  Like a thin, Jewish version of Michael Moore, Stein interviews professors from numerous universities, interspersing these with his own musings on freedom. His point here seems to be that the freedom to dispute Darwinism has been denied by a scientific community that treats evolution as fact rather than theory.

A long list of scientists are cited as having been denied funding, lost tenure or even their jobs for expressing views that counter the theory that life began by random chance.  Stein is sympathetic to these scientists and delights in portraying them as victims.  A stream of Intelligent Design (ID) supporters are trotted out, arguing that scientists have become too slavishly devoted to the theory of evolution and are manipulating evidence to support their claims.

The most interesting sections of the film are those where Stein interviews controversial God-denier, Richard Dawkins. 

While there are some interesting arguments put forward here, and the many holes in scientific knowledge are pointed out, the film doesn’t offer even the most basic definition of ID, leaving it open to the common perception that it is unprovable religious mumbo-jumbo.  This, added to the offensive section linking Darwinism to Hitler’s master-race ambitions, undercuts any serious points Stein and co might have been able to make.

The film’s relentlessly comic tone also does little to help its cause.  Cartoons, jump-cuts and various other “clever” film making techniques are used to lighten the more serious moments.

Often fascinating (in a kind of can’t take your eyes of a car crash way), the film’s style does little to enforce its ideas as being anything to take seriously, despite the seriousness with which they themselves take it. 

Yes, this is likely to be among the most hotly debated films of the year, and one I foresee being fodder for lively discussion long after the theatre has been left behind.


  1. I didn't know what this one was actually about. I thought it was generally about the poor state of education. Does it give you a chance to win Stein's money?

  2. Excellent review, Kate. If his techniques were making light of his points, maybe deep-down he isn't such an ID supporter as he seems. Or maybe, like his title, his choices weren't good because he's not as intelligent as he'd like to think he is.

  3. You make me want to watch it! Great review. As for films beginning with X, the only one I can think of and it's an oldy, is Xanadu... Sorry, It just jumped into my head...