HBO // 2005 // 54 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Geoffrey Miller (Retired) // September 28th, 2006
"What we are doing is taking a risk with the life support system of the Earth, and humans have to decide if they want to try to slow that down."
Executive produced by Laurie David, wife of writer-comedian (and Prius driver) Larry David, Too Hot Not To Handle is an hour-long primer on global warming. Intended to raise awareness of the issue in general as well as the StopGlobalWarming.org virtual march, it strongly argues that global warming is real and steps need to be taken before environmental catastrophe strikes. So anyone expecting to hear dissenting voices from the small, but vocal, minority of global warming deniers (a.k.a. Exxon Mobil executives) will be sorely disappointed.
The first half covers the basics of defining global warming, what causes it, and how it can affect us. Several scientists explain how man-made emissions from burning fossil fuels for energy releases carbon dioxide into the air, which causes the Earth to warm because of the greenhouse effect. They also discuss how even temperature increases that sound small on paper can cause large changes. This is reinforced by visits to places already noticeably affected by global warming, such as parts of Alaska where layers of ice, previously frozen for generations, have melted to reveal green fields underneath.
The picture painted by the scientists of what Earth would look like in the years to come if global warming isn't curbed is not a pretty one. Natural disasters like hurricanes will increase in frequency and intensity. Brutal heat waves will cause thousands of deaths. Sea levels will rise, flooding coastal areas, while the melting of mountaintop snowpack crucial to water supply inland will dry up. Even though it's obvious that worst case scenarios are being used, the potential consequences are terrifying.
All of this adds up to a perspective that could be dismissed as alarmist, and such gloomy talk, untempered, would have possibly diminished the impact of this disc to change attitudes for the better. Thankfully, Too Hot Not To Handle takes a positive turn in its second half, offering solutions that emphasize things everyday people can do right now to cool down global warming. Several automotive alternatives are offered, including now-familiar hybrids, as well as the use of biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel. (Noted plant enthusiast Willie Nelson is interviewed about his BioWillie business initiative.) Portland, Oregon, a city that has been fighting global warming since the early '90s, is showcased for its top-notch public transportation system and other innovative measures the city and its people have undertaken.
Granted, there isn't much pizzazz in the presentation department. Scientists talking against black backgrounds are interspersed with stock footage and dry graphs. That's it, except for a few on-location interviews. It is, in production values, akin to something on PBS, such as NOVA or American Experience. Its primary is to educate and inform, with a minimum of flashiness.
There's not much in the way of extras or frills -- just the documentary itself, which has adequate sound and picture quality. Some additional supplemental information would have been nice. In a case of practicing what they preach, the packaging is eco-friendly, made entirely out of recycled cardboard.
Too Hot Not To Handle does a fine job of explaining the whys and hows of global warming, its problems and its solutions. It's not particularly riveting entertainment, but it boils down the basics and presents them in simple, easily understood terms. Its realistic assessment of the seriousness of the situation combined with a message of cautious optimism strikes just the right tone, and a refreshing lack of moral lecturing saves it from becoming overly pedantic or righteous. If you've yet to educate yourself on this important topic (or need to educate someone else), it's a good place to start.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 54 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated