How much does it pain the makers of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" right about now.
Here they are with this intriguing documentary about the premature death of a revolutionary creation, and one of their star interviewees has to get arrested on a drunken-driving charge and make some anti-Semitic remarks.
Yes, indeedy, Mel Gibson serves as one of the movie's talking heads, undoubtedly appearing as a favor to "Electric" executive producer Dean Devlin (who produced Gibson in "The Patriot" and is one of the few celebs speaking up for Gibson). I'm shocked one of the big car companies hasn't used this against them. Couldn't you just see some rep from General Motors or Ford on one of the morning news shows telling the perky host, "Aren't you glad the electric car is gone? Mel Gibson had one, for crying out loud!"
Gibson's appearance isn't a complete blemish on the film. He's one of the many Hollywood stars (if you count Ed Begley Jr., Alexandra Paul and that dude from "thirtysomething" with the perpetual five o'clock shadow in the same league as Gibson) who briefly owned an electric car and attest to its durability, environmentally safe reliability and, of course, all-out awesomeness.
Narrated by Martin Sheen, "Electric" revisits the promising ascension of these progressive vehicles. When a California state mandate passed 16 years ago, declaring that some new cars must be ZEVs (zero-emission vehicles), car companies had no choice but to get into the electric-car game. General Motors was first, dropping a jazzy, cost-efficient, little sportscar known as the EV1 in 1996.
Despite their growing prominence on California freeways, car companies would downplay and underhype these rechargeable cars, which put a kibosh on public demand and, in later years, led to the remaining leased cars being recalled and destroyed. But as the movie later explains, their downfall was not all the car companies' fault. Oil companies, the government, the unaware consumers -- "Electric" profiles all the culprits and investigates which were most guilty of this innovation-crushing crime.
"Electric" is such an inevitable affirmation of greed, corruption and big business stomping out the evolutionary practice known as change that it's a shock the movie, and all the pro-electric car people interviewed in it, refuse to be cynical. Besides, the electric car may be dead, but as the birth and popularity of the Japanese hybrid car -- internal-combustion vehicles with an electric motor -- has shown, the war is far from over.
Oddly enough, it's Ol' Crazy Eyes himself, Mel Gibson, who bluntly sums up what sent the electric car to an early grave when he's asked a pivotal question: "Who controls the future?"
"Whoever has the biggest club," he replies, "one they can bash you in and one they can belong to."
Good answer -- and better than blaming the Jews.
Staff writer Craig D. Lindsey can be reached at 829-4760, email@example.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/unclecrizzle.