Busy, thorough docu explores solutions to plastic problem.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Plastic Earth is a documentary hosted by Rob Riggle about the problem of plastic on our planet. Single-use plastic winds up in the ocean or in landfills, and microparticles are now everywhere (including in our food, clothing, and air) and they can't be broken down without creating harmful gasses. But the movie interviews many innovators who are implementing ways to clean up the earth and change bad materials to good. It's a busy movie, a bit too flashy and overly reliant on stock footage and music, but it has lots of useful information. Beer-drinking is shown briefly, and there's a potentially upsetting scene of doctors trying to remove a plastic straw that's been jammed up a turtle's nose. Expect to see dribbling blood, and the turtle appears to be in pain. The subject matter itself may also be disturbing to some viewers.
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What's the Story?
In PLASTIC EARTH, mother of four Janice Overbeck becomes concerned with the problem of plastic on our planet and sets out to make a documentary about it. Viewers learn about fossil-based plastics that are made for a single use and then generally wind up in the oceans -- as well as literally everywhere else (i.e., our food, our clothing, the air, etc.). Additionally, these materials can't be broken down without emitting toxic gasses, which can cause people to become terribly ill. It's disturbing stuff. But Overbeck also discovers many companies and organizations that are dedicated to solving the problem, whether it's by using safe, recyclable PHA plastic, starting initiatives and programs for cleaning up, or finding new ways to break down and recycle complex materials that were previously thought impossible.
Is It Any Good?
Overly busy, this documentary still undeniably provides plenty of fresh information on a pressing environmental problem, and the filmmakers have certainly done their legwork. Narrated by comic actor Rob Riggle, who also appears on camera and gets serious for a moment, Plastic Earth does try a little too hard. The many segments are fast and short, as if produced for a flashy children's educational video, and they may frequently leave you with questions. And then there's the endless parade of stock images and the constantly twittering and chirping musical score (and, heaven help us, songs), which all sounds like royalty-free stuff downloaded from the internet. Still, Overbeck and company have clearly put a lot of work into surfacing a wide variety of good, smart people who've come up with amazing solutions, big and small. The featured ideas range from a waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen that doubles as a sports park to a method of removing plastic from waterways using bubbles. Plastic Earth doesn't let people off the hook, however: This is a problem that still needs action, and each and every one of us can -- and should -- help.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Plastic Earth's contribution to the conversation on the environment. What does it contribute? What was surprising? What was already familiar?
Is the movie scary? Hopeful? How so? Why is it so difficult for some people to talk about the environment and climate change?
Does the movie include a call to action? Does it offer suggestions for how an ordinary person can start? If so, what are they?
Did any of the ideas or solutions in the movie speak to you especially? If so, which one(s), and why?
Do you have any ideas of your own regarding our plastic problem?
- On DVD or streaming: February 7, 2023
- Cast: Rob Riggle, Janice Overbeck, Cole Gibbs
- Directors: Janice Overbeck, Jack Winch
- Studio: Gravitas Ventures
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, Science and Nature
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 26, 2023
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