Don McLeroy is an amiable man—a good dentist to his patients, an enthusiastic Sunday-school teacher and an impassioned leader of the Texas State Board of Education. He also happens to be a Young Earth creationist, one of those right-leaning religious folks who discount the theory of evolution and believe a divine being brought the planet’s inhabitants to life only a few thousand years ago. Scott Thurman’s scornful doc focuses on McLeroy’s controversial, and somewhat successful, attempts in 2009 and 2010 to rewrite Texas science and history books with language that was more sympathetic to the intelligent-design perspective—a course of events that could potentially affect schoolchildren throughout the nation.
The film takes us inside the laborious board meetings with their often eye-rolling arguments (extended discussions about the use of the word hip-hop and the loaded term strengths and weaknesses). And Thurman interviews subjects on both sides of the debate, from Liberty University law professor Cynthia Dunbar to noted anthropology instructor Ron Wetherington—whose friendly yet still subtly charged debate with the creepily cocksure McLeroy is the doc’s best scene. Otherwise, The Revisionaries is strictly on the side of the secular-humanist angels; there’s even a mocking score by Mark Orton that makes sure we understand that McLeroy is a deserving figure of fun. Such a feature-length bludgeoning, even in the service of basic social and scientific literacy, is truly discomfiting.
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