Months after An Inconvenient Truth became the third-biggest documentary ever, it’s still hard to swallow the notion of Al Gore as movie star. But there’s an even more shocking discovery in his global warming film: Al Gore as charming, determined, warm-blooded politician. During his gripping PowerPoint lecture on saving the world from environmental disaster, he declares that ”ultimately, this is really not a political issue so much as a moral issue.” But you almost wish he didn’t hedge it that way, for he also draws jarring connections between climate crisis and political crises in Darfur and New Orleans. And makes a half-joke about himself as the man who ”used to be the next President of the United States of America.” And launches a scathing attack on the Bush administration.
It’s clear: Global warming is a political issue and Al Gore is a politician. Pontificating in front of graphics-filled flat-panel monitors, he may resemble a college professor at first glance, but he’s adopted the movie-star swagger that’s so often required of effective political candidates and leaders — albeit six years too late. That sad fact is key to a clever parallel that director Davis Guggenheim establishes between the star, whose life is recounted in a series of quaint interludes, and the planet on which he lives. Al Gore may have been slow to get wise about himself, Truth implies and implores, but don’t you fall into the same trap with the environment.
The DVD’s only notable extra, a 32-minute film addendum, seeks to bring that argument up to date and drive it home. It’s a fitting supplement to a movie that joins recent polemics like Bowling for Columbine and Super Size Me in jolting the heart and gut as much as the mind, by entertaining while educating. Of course, in doing so, Gore creates an uncomfortable truth: The end of the world is tragic, but in this context, it’s engrossing to watch.