Do As I Say (2009) DVD Review

Documentaries make for powerful cinema because of the reality they reveal. Whether the film is about rivals for the top score in Donkey Kong or school children competing in ballroom dancing, rich stories are everywhere. Documentaries are also excellent tools for speaking truth to power. As such, Do As I Say attempts to reveal the hypocrisy of high-level liberals in the United States. It’s definitely an interesting change of pace, but considering current political events, reality may have beaten the film to its revelation.

Do As I Say is based on the best-selling book Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, by Peter Schweizer. Filmmakers Nicholas Tucker and Lucas Abel take on political heavyweights, like Noam Chomsky, Hillary Clinton and Michael Moore in order to point out how the actions of these left-wing individuals don’t match their words. The attempts made to discredit these people are solid efforts, but they also lack the hard-hitting punches that are normally found in documentaries like this.

Tacking the zeitgeist of today, the film examines the “Green” practices of Al Gore who has characterized global warming as the greatest crisis this generation has ever faced. Never mind that his carbon footprint is off the charts due to flying everywhere he goes in a private jet. Gore makes up for this by purchasing carbon offsets, which are essentially tax-deductible donations to environmental groups who will most likely plant a tree (or several) in order to balance out his carbon pollution and make him “carbon neutral.” Do As I Say compares this process to the defunct Catholic practice of selling indulgences to absolve sins. It’s a humorous comparison, but not entirely accurate since sins are ethereal. If Do As I Say had shown how carbon offsets didn’t actually neutralize pollution it would have been a poignant scene. Alas, it remains a missed opportunity.

The filmmakers also scrutinize fellow documentarian Michael Moore and his claims that he refuses to own one share of stock based on principle. The film produces Moore’s tax forms, revealing that not only does he own stock, but he’s invested in companies he decries, like Halliburton. In another humorous moment, the filmmakers approach Moore during his promotion for his film Sicko and ask him for stock tips, if it’s going to be a bear market and if they should buy or sell. Moore, of course, denies owning Halliburton stock, which begs the question: How did the filmmakers get a hold of this IRS document? And if it’s available to the public, why hasn’t this evidence been used to contradict Moore before? Unfortunately, these details aren’t covered in the film.

The tone of Do As I Say, for better or worse, is lighthearted. This makes the film easy to watch, but also reduces the seriousness of the points being made. There’s fun, comic music playing in the background, there are brief, off-topic interludes and the filmmakers even hire an improvisation comedian to help illustrate their points and “fill in the blanks” by essentially saying what the liberal subjects won’t. The inclusion of an actor is a fresh approach at documentary filmmaking, but Do As I Say relies on that convention too much and viewers may be scratching their heads, wondering why they’re listening to him, rather than an expert in the field.

Overall, the biggest drawback of the film is the timing of its release. Since the 2008 election, the country has witnessed several moments of liberal hypocrisy, ranging from a slew of tax-cheats, including one who now heads the IRS, to a President that was, until recently, willing to release potentially nation-damaging “torture photos” but not personally damaging New York fly-by photos.  Liberal hypocrisy, like conservative hypocrisy, is already out there for those who care to see it.

With that said, Do As I Say is unlikely to convert anyone or change anyone’s minds. Conservatives who watch this film will be happy to have more ammunition for their next cocktail party. Liberals who watch this film will either dismiss the film as conservative lies or shrug off the hypocrisies as part of politics. Liberals appear to be better disposed to the political realities of saying what needs to be said in order to attain or stay in power, which is why when a liberal President and a conservative beauty pageant contestant share the same views on gay marriage only the beauty pageant contestant gets crucified.