GO WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? Chris Paine’s lively investigation into the demise of General Motors’ zero-emission EV1, Who Killed the Electric Car? is neither the smoking-gun indictment of the auto industry nor the grassy-knoll petroleum-boardroom plot its title and marketing suggest. Instead, it’s a laudably complicated, if emotional and a little comic-book goofy, story of how a confluence of forces — industry skepticism, trained-seal lobbyists and, last but not least, consumer reluctance — undermined the future of a quiet little bean of mobile metal that the anointed few who could afford to lease it passionately adored. Paine rounds up a delightfully ragged panel of “experts” for the film, including Phyllis Diller (remembering the original early-century EVs), local pro-solar activist Doug Korthof and radical Catholic Mel Gibson, who leaven what might otherwise have been flat talking-head testimony from key elected officials, oil-industry shills and engineers. Narrated in onerous tones by Martin Sheen, the film also floats competing views: In one camp, there’s Chelsea Sexton, the GM sales specialist who became the EV1’s prime cheerleader, only to watch from the inside as the company ignored demand; in the other, Los Angeles Times columnist Dan Neil concludes that “If GM could make a car run on pig manure, it would.” Paine has the wisdom to leave it up to you which one speaks the truth, and his documentary has enough integrity to let you walk away suspecting there’s more than one answer. (ArcLight; NuWilshire; Playhouse 7; Town Center 5) (Judith Lewis)
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