An Inconvenient Truth is a filmed version of an introductory-level lecture on the perils of planetary warming that Al Gore routinely gives to college crowds and other interested audiences around the world. The lecture includes moneyed Powerpoint-like presentations, animation interludes, and even physical stunts; at one point, the portly politico squeezes onto a cherry-picker and ascends high off the floor to dramatize an off-the-charts spike in a global warming line graph. With a running time of less than a hundred minutes, the film is packed with portentous figures and graphs to illustrate the extent of the problem, but for those who are illiterate in the language of climate science, it also serves up some striking prima facie evidence of alarming environmental irregularities happening before our eyes. The notion of drowned polar bears floating around in the sea is more gut-grabbing than a hundred bar graph statistics.

Produced by Natural Resources Defense Council trustee Laurie David, An Inconvenient Truth contains a number of compelling environmental data points, and the science behind the message is more or less uncontroversial, but ironically, it's the unnecessary decision to puff the film up to feature length with biographical interludes of Gore that raises the biggest questions. These moments, which sneak in more and more as the film goes on, showcase Gore as a wandering Thoreau-like character who stares wistfully out of plane windows, remembers old friends long gone and stands outside of himself to mourn his razor's edge defeat in the 2000 presidential election. Flashback footage of that event is laid over with the same moribund, hopeless music that accompanies the visuals of our impending environmental doom, which forces anyone who is politically minded to do an involuntary mental recalibration.