Tapped Petrol Doc’s Celeb Credos

    Fuel
    Starring Joshua Tickell, Willie Nelson & Sheryl Crow
    Directed by Joshua Tickell
    Not Rated
    01:52
    2 stars

    Like fellow documentarian Morgan Spurlock, Josh Tickell holds a public grudge against McDonald’s. The only difference: In “Fuel,” grease is good. Deep within oil-soaked fries, Tickell claims to have found the untapped secret to greener fuel: biodiesel. But in a 112-minute time slot that feels as tedious as the 11 years it took to make, Tickell painstakingly dissects the history of America’s addiction to foreign oil, relying on little more than celebrity name-drops and one-sided arguments as evidence.

    The 2008 Sundance Audience Award for Best Documentary provides a realistic solution to severing dependence on foreign oil: the introduction of alternative fuel sources such as sustainable biofuels, biomass and plug-in hybrids. Sprinkled with interviews with Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow and Julia Roberts, the film appeals to the unconverted, stick-shifting masses. But — trailing closely behind grassroots-advocating documentaries like “The 11th Hour” — “Fuel” is nothing new.

    From the pulpit of his sunflower-painted Winnebago, Tickell condemns the sinfulness of America’s oil industry, detailing the ways in which it has poisoned the environment and corrupted the government since Rockefeller first subverted the ethanol-fueled automobiles of Henry Ford by advancing prohibition.

    That dubiousness, Tickell argues, persisted in the hush-hush machinations of the Bush and Reagan administrations, renders “Fuel” as politically charged as a Michael Moore expose. Pointing the finger at Bush for using 9/11 as impetus for foreign oil expenditures — and later exploiting the same imagery to tug at the audience’s heartstrings — Tickwell encourages viewers to embrace Flower Power at the expense of remaining unbiased.

    Although his arguments are well-grounded, mandated pity eclipses the resentment that “Fuel” otherwise foments toward Uncle Sam. Rather than scold Bush and Cheney for their oil-rigging exploits, Tickell focuses on painting Presidents Kennedy and Carter as saints for their fuel policies.

    Despite the documentary’s histrionic moral, Tickell’s passion seems genuine, drawing on the pathos of his childhood in Louisiana — a “Jurassic Park of oil and gas — to illustrate his point. As a young boy, he resented the state’s oil refineries for thwarting his ability to river raft through the blue bayous like Huck Finn.

    While his vision for biodiesel and his filming techniques are equally savvy — he uses animated modules to break down the oil-refining process for us visual learners — periodic lecture-style narration dashes any chance for “Fuel” to surpass cynical expectations of being just another didactic documentary.

    The most notable proposal is algae biodiesel, which — in addition to providing net increase in renewable energy — also metabolizes carbon dioxide. But regardless of the solutions “Fuel” presents, its lack of timeliness due to a delayed theatrical release in 2008 is difficult to ignore. Come on, the Obama campaign was last year’s news. Now what?

    “Fuel” may inspire you to use the compost bins at OVT, but its earnest efforts to be the little movie that could makes it unworthy of a trip to the theaters — just think of all the fuel you’d be wasting.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $2505
    $2500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $2505
    $2500
    Contributed
    Our Goal