(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is a 52-minute high-spirited film, a motivational pep talk, intended to excite a mostly youthful audience in the thrill of science and innovation. It also asks its adult audience how we stimulate young people and seed them with a passion for math and science. The world is providing the problems; we need the next generation to find the creative solutions. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Among my earliest memories was running around the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. There were all kinds of buttons to press and colorful exhibits to see. Generally I made myself the world's most pestiferous two-year old. I always had fond memories of the museum and the excitement of science. I returned to that museum considerably older and found the spirit had changed. It was not so much about the wonders of science any more. Now it was about the damage being done to the wetlands and how to conserve energy and the effects of pollution. I am sure later they also had exhibits on global warming. In short the tone had gone from seduction to sermon. Of course the sermon was about very real concerns. And this was by no means the only science museum to have this shift in tone. Science at it was represented became uncool and a bore and dangerous and above all depressing. But a generation or so was lost to science.

A new up-beat motivational film called IMAGINE IT! by Rudy Poe and Richard Tavener is running counter to that trend, trying to make science and creativity exciting again. This is a high-octane 52- minute challenge for young people to use their brains and their imagination to come up with ideas to change the world. It is one long, fast-paced ad for imagination and creativity attended by some of the great luminaries of our world. Presenting their ideas are people like astronaut Sally Ride, visionary Ray Kurzweil, and Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering.

Entrepreneur Peter Diamandis talks about the multi-million-dollar X Prizes he founded to be awarded for certain engineering goals like building and flying a vehicle that can carry three passengers into space. Even multi-million-dollar prizes are a small price to pay to foster inventions that can change the world. The film is on shakier ground when it suggests that the Blue Man Group, creative as these entertainers are, are really a big part of the same innovation movement that is needed to solve engineering and environmental problems.

The message is that we need new ideas to avert or solve the problems of today and to invent a better future. As one luminary puts it "we are in a race with catastrophe and catastrophe is winning." The film suggests ways that the rest of us can at least promote creativity.

The pace of the film is at the same time fast and slow. The editing is appropriate for a music video with rapid cuts and speed- up-slow-down photography. But the message is repetitive. It is really just "Hey, kids, go out there and innovate." "Science is art and art is science." "Asking questions is more important than answering them."

Hosting, with a t-shirt that says "+>-", is comedian Iliza Shlesinger, whose exaggerated facial expressions are cute fun at first but wear out their welcome well before the 52-minute film is over.

Youngsters may leave the film wondering why the film tells them to innovate but not how to how to be innovative. Of course, that would defeat the whole purpose. Will this film have its intended effect? Will it inspire young people to be more creative and to be excited about mathematics and science? Will it attract the best minds to the most pressing problems? We will know better in the next 20 years. Not all of this film works for me, but then I am not the intended audience. I rate IMAGINE IT! a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. We can all hope its message gets across and that IMAGINE IT! becomes an important influence. IMAGINE IT! was released on DVD on October 25 and is also available for digital download.

Film Credits:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper