- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

“What the #$*! Do We Know!?” is supposed to inspire a sense of wonder at the incalculable vastness of the material world — from the outer cosmos to the subatomic realm — and renew possibilities of rational spiritualism.

It might just as easily have been the directors’ excuse for why this movie is such a chaotic mess: “What the #$*!” — they pronounce that last word “bleep” — “do we know about filmmaking?”

William Arntz, Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente combined navel-gazing wits for a movie that’s part didactic narrative (starring the actress Marlee Matlin), part Discovery Channel-style animation (starring a bunch of cartoon characters that look like your brain on drugs — just kidding) and part expert-laden documentary.

Therein lies flaw No. 1. The movie doesn’t identify these experts (among them Natural Law Party guru John Hagelin, physicist William Tiller and theologian Miceal Ledwith) until the very end, inviting you to trust all of them equally.

Next to the reputable molecular biologist Candace Pert is a glorified chiropractor (Joseph Dispenza) who employs malapropisms such as “mediocrisy” and — my favorite — a woman who looks like Zsa Zsa Gabor and believes she’s channeling the 35,000-year-old spirit of the mystic Ramtha.

The movie’s official Web site (www.whatthebleep.com) says that while J.Z. Knight (her real name) channels Ramtha, “the readings of her brain-wave activity shift to delta, and … the lower cerebellum operates her body, which talks, walks, eats, drinks and dances while Ramtha teaches.”

Um, yeah, right.

By proxy, “What the Bleep” credits Transcendental Meditation with a 25 percent drop in crime in the District some years ago. And it says that if you just believe hard enough, if you harness the apparently mutable properties of physics, then you, too, can walk on water.

So as not to sound like a humorless skeptic, I will say that my bunkum blocker didn’t kick in straightaway with “What the Bleep.” For a while there, it’s an illuminating look at the world of quantum physics, the science of the incalculably small. Quantum physics attempts to do for really small stuff what Einstein did for really big stuff — that is, prove it’s all quirky and unpredictable and, well, relative.

More of this would have made for a diverting little geek movie. But “What the Bleep” isn’t satisfied with that; it looks for God (or god, at any rate) in the details.

It insists that the traditional God concept — of a being apart from the physical universe, intercessory and personal — is wrong and that God is anywhere and everywhere. Something like: He is not a He, but a sort of pantheistic Everything. It’s inside you; it’s love, life, hurricanes and peat moss.

With Miss Matlin as a human guinea pig — she plays a photographer who’s down on men — the experts and the animation sequences are intercut with the action to expound variously on the inner workings of the human brain as it processes information and spits it back out as emotions and memories.

I’m pretty sure this is more biochemistry than quantum physics, and I’m certain that these live-action sequences are clunky and annoying to sit through.

That much I do know.

**

TITLE: “What the #$*! Do We Know!?”

RATING: NR (Profanity, fleeting sexuality)

CREDITS: Directed by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente. Produced by Mr. Arntz and Miss Chasse. Written by Mr. Arntz, Miss Chasse and Matthew Hoffman. Cinematography by David Bridges and Mr. Vicente.

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes

WEB SITE: www.whatthebleep.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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