“The Revisionaries” is a funny, light-hearted, well-focused look at a microcosm of the Evolution vs Creationism debate going on in the American Education system. At the same time it manages to be very, very depressing. The main lesson you learn from “The Revisionaries” is that almost no one on the Texas Board of Education has any idea at all about what actual education is, and they don’t seem to care. That being said, the film is fun, easy to watch, and turns the most boring thing imaginable, C-SPAN level government meetings, into something that’s actually entertaining. It does suffer a little bit from perhaps being too light-hearted, ignoring the real, and possibly disastrous possibilities that the film puts forth. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about how much of a hilarious mess the Texas State Board of Education really is.
The film centres around Don McLeory, former Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, and his attempts to re-write Texan school textbooks to include “weaknesses in the theory of evolution.” Members of the scientific community believe this is an attempt to insert creationism and intelligent design into American schools and try to stop it.
“Were Dinosaurs on the Ark? Sure they were! We don’t know…”
I think “The Revisionaries” greatest success is how character driven it is. This is a film all about boring political negotiations and tallying votes and so on, but it still manages to be very human by focusing more on the people behind these negotiations. Don McLeory in particular is an interesting figure, because of just how charmingly naive he is. The film definitely has a bias against creationism and by extension McLeory, portraying him as sort of a bumbling oaf, but it shows that he still has good intentions, in the end . I in particular strongly disagree with everything he stands for, and believe he is actively harming America’s youth. Still, I just can’t hate the guy. He is too nice. He is nice as all get out. He is just incredibly dumb.
The film is also very funny, if you don’t mind the kind of humour that ends with you going “hahahah…. the world’s totally doomed isn’t it?” We’re talking entire scenes devoted to one man’s earnest effort to change every mention of “Hip-Hop” in a textbook to “Country and Western music.” Then we see him try to explain the logistics of Noah’s Ark, and how it could easily fit “all ‘dem critters” (including dinosaurs.) Then we are treated to the amazing facial expressions of Don McLeroy’s opponent, Thomas Ratliff, as McLeroy stammers out a haphazard explanation for the origin of life. It’s like watching a lost episode of “Parks & Recreation.”
But seriously though…
The only problem is, this isn’t really a laughing matter. The film does point out the radical changes these textbooks will have on the future of Texas children, and by extension the rest of America’s children, but it never really drives home the danger that people like McLeroy represent. He’s portrayed as foolish, but still rather harmless, like a crazy uncle or senile grandfather. There’s nothing wrong with trying to find the humour in a serious situation, but I think “The Revisionaries” got a little carried away with it, and lost the real graveness of the issue. I don’t suppose you can blame them though, they are absolutely awash in hilarious material.
Buy or Netflix “The Revisionaries,” though it’s not on Netflix Canada yet (much to my chagrin.) It’s informative, funny, and easy to watch even if you aren’t a huge documentary watcher. Get it if only to reaffirm your frustration with, and hatred of, the human race. I know I did!