On the heels of Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) and March of the Penguins (2005), An Inconvenient Truth was the breakout documentary du jour for 2006, setting box-office per-screen average records over Memorial Day. But it was also a makeover for former vice president Al Gore, repositioning him as a hip and accessible public servant who might actually have enough buzz to win the 2008 presidential election. While Gore has denied having any future presidential aspirations, what's undeniable is that this man has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of his long-time pet issue: global warming. His film makes it seem absurd that these concerns were ever considered marginal. An Inconvenient Truth provides incontrovertible evidence to even the most determined skeptics, and does so without scolding viewers or resorting to overtly partisan politics. As a bonus, it actually entertains audiences in a way Gore the candidate never could. He is conversational, easygoing. Although Gore and director Davis Guggenheim cannot resist several low-level jabs at the Bush administration, these come off at the perfect pitch, and add humor to the otherwise sobering and staggering figures.
With a savvy mixture of lecture footage from Gore's exhaustive touring circuit, computer-aided scenarios and vignettes from Gore's life, An Inconvenient Truth does double duty: it humanizes the prospective global tragedy, but it also humanizes the politician himself. Gore supporters may wince during a potentially self-serving recap of his loss to George W. Bush, or when he stretches to assign topical relevance to his sister's lung cancer. But even these are handled well enough not to distract, and they provide a necessary counterpoint to the onslaught of scientific information. Whether An Inconvenient Truth ultimately engenders long-term policy and social change, or just a temporary upswing in recycling, remains to be written. Just like Gore's own legacy as a public figure.