Combustible Celluloid
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan, Heather Berlin, Joe Bastardi, Ken Ham
Written by: n/a
Directed by: David Alvarado, Jason Sussberg
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 101
Date: 11/17/2017

Bill Nye: Science Guy (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Science Nonfiction

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This documentary gets the best of both worlds, building a personal story of the likable, trustworthy Bill Nye and his own dreams and doubts, as well as a serious, hopeful love letter to science itself.

In Bill Nye: Science Guy, Bill Nye ended his much-loved kids' TV show Bill Nye, the Science Guy in 1995 and has been working on what to do next. He gives talks to adoring fans, but a problem catches his eye. The facts of climate change are real, but many people in power deny them. Nye tries to debate people like meteorologist Joe Bastardi on Fox News, or in the case of Ken Ham — who says things like "the earth is only 6000 years old" — in person.

But though Nye seems to have won their debate, Ham opens a "Noah's Ark" museum dedicated to keeping kids from learning science. Nye also confesses some of his personal troubles, like the fact that his family carries the disease ataxia, which attacks muscle movement. But then his friend Neil deGrasse Tyson has an idea and appoints Nye CEO of the Planetary Society, where he begins working to realize the dream of his one-time mentor Carl Sagan: to launch a lightweight and inexpensive "solar sailor" into space.

Though not specifically aimed at kids like his beloved TV show, David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg's Bill Nye: Science Guy also contains very little mature material. If kids are old enough to grapple with the concept of climate change, or a disease that can affect the motor skills of an entire family, then this movie could imbue them with hope for the future and a love of science.

The movie does a terrific job of painting this celebrity as a normal guy, a man who loved being famous and influential toward kids, and who frequently wonders if he will "leave the world better than he found it," a lesson he was taught as a child. It also manages to be an effective documentary about climate change, realistic, but not completely grim.

Perhaps the most troubling part of the movie is in its depiction of climate change deniers (even Donald Trump is shown, briefly), who seem to firmly believe in their rhetoric. But perhaps it's all a learning tool. This is a movie that has the power to unite Bill Nye fans once more behind the power of science.

PBS released this terrific documentary on Blu-ray in 2018. Video and audio quality are excellent. It comes with about 20 minutes of deleted scenes, all good stuff; in one of them Nye visits the Obama White House for science fair! The disc includes optional English subtitles and scene selections as well.

Movies Unlimtied