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Who Killed the Electric Car? (PG)

Release Date: June 28th, 2006 by Sony Pictures Classics.
Directed by Chris Paine.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the brief rise and quick fall of the electric car during the 1990’s.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: This slick, well-presented documentary idolizes the electric car as it if were the best invention ever created by man. In 1997, General Motors introduced the first electric car, the EV1, into the market. Based on the environmental benefits and the ease of driving an electric car versus a typical car that requires gas, oil, and lots of maintenance, sales of EV1 should have sky-rocketed at that point. Instead, the cars were confiscated from their original owners—even from celebrities who promoted the cars—and crushed. Angry customers, not surprisingly, who paid good money demanded their beloved cars back. Director Chris Paine wonders why electric cars died and who should be blamed. Unfortunately, the answers to this “murder mystery” aren’t as fascinating and provocative as the questions themselves. The EV1 failed some safety tests around the time of its release into the market and, instead of fixing small problems, GM backed the cars out of the market. Were they pressured and by whom? Of course, it’s part of the government’s job to pressure companies to improve their safety. The real question, though, should be: would GM back down without pressure from the government. Of course, there are other players or “suspects” in this so-called murder. But why go to the extreme of treating it like a murder in the first place? There are many ways to look at EV1, but Paine simply fails to assess it from many angles. In other words, he comes to the conclusion that EV1 is beneficial and its death is tragedy—and part of a conspiracy—too early before all the facts are presented. He does a great job of presenting these facts coherently, but a poor job of weighing/synthesizing them which, in turn, leads to a weak and rushed conclusion.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Unfortunately, none.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not analytical enough and a weak conclusion.


IN A NUTSHELL: Slick and well-presented, but fails to properly synthesize its facts and lacks insight.


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