Review: What the #$*! Do We Know?!

What the bleep was the appeal of this cult movie? I'm at a loss. This movie mixes some documentary-style talking heads, a disposable Alice in Wonderland story line starring Marlee Matlin, and some computer graphic animation sequences. The talking heads discuss several theories at a high level: quantum physics and some of its more bizarre implications, neuroscience, theology, and more than a dollop of new age mumbo jumbo. Marlee Matlin plays a grumpy photographer (think Neo of The Matrix as a woman during "that time of month", unwilling to swallow the red pill, and Morpheus as a pudgy kid on a playground basketball court) who experiences some strange occurrences in her life. Her story is intended to illustrate some of the points made by the talking heads, but mostly it undermines their ideas because her scenes are so flip, the special effects so hokey.

The talking heads, meanwhile, are not identified. I waited and waited for their names and qualifications to show up on screen, and they never did. Who were these people? Some spoke from what appeared to be their living rooms, others in front of goofy light show animations, all the while accompanied by a laughable new age soundtrack. Finally, during the end credits, their identities flashed on screen, each of them reading off their resumes as if defending their sanity and honor, and why shouldn't they after a production like that? By that point, I was not a bit surprised to discover that among the roster of scientists were some spiritual teachers and mystics.

The ultimate message of the movie centers on the power of positive thinking as backed up by some light quantum physics and neuroscience, and as evidenced by Marlee Matlin's ability to shoot a basketball through a playground hoop. Quantum physics is fascinating, and while I would hardly profess myself to be anything resembling an expert on the topic, I would recommend reading a book on quantum physics for those really interested in the topic. The movie does everything but come out and claim that through your own mind, you can control reality. Is that one of the conclusions to be drawn from the latest in quantum mechanics? I'm skeptical, both of that idea and of Matlin's ability to sink a jump shot.

A visit to the movie's official website revealed links galore and testimonials from all sides, but much of it reads like infomercial rhetoric. I thought for a brief moment about downloading the study guide, but then I read a description of the organization that created the guide:

"The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) was founded thirty years ago by astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell. After his celebrated moonwalk, Dr. Mitchell was overwhelmed by a powerful sense of the unity of everything in creation. The separation of spirit, mind, and matter dissolved. As a well trained scientist, he knew that one day science would come to fully understand wholeness and interconnectedness, but first it would have to learn how to access deeper levels of human consciousness. Indeed, science itself would have to understand the power of heart and mind hidden beyond the reach of a purely rational framework. IONS, an international nonprofit organization, was founded to support that effort."

The more of it I read, the less I thought I was missing out on some profound message. This movie has been anointed by many a cult classic, but it's more cult than classic.