Writer/directors Albert Nerenberg & Nik Sheehan’s documentary film Who Farted? is billed as “The world’s first climate change documentary comedy”, and that does seem completely apt. The film discusses greenhouse gases and their effect on climate change (a subject that I take very seriously), but with a lighthearted, comedic, almost goofy tone. While I don’t personally believe this is an issue to be taken lightly, to the doc’s credit, it utilizes its lighter approach to make its heavy (and potentially catastrophic) subject matter more accessible, particularly for younger people.
I would argue that Who Farted? is most likely aimed at perhaps the seven to 15 crowd. Its sense of humour is at times delightfully silly, though also frequently juvenile. I don’t even necessarily mean that as a criticism. I believe 13-year-old me would have enjoyed this much more than contemporary me did. While I often find them bottom of the barrel, even this old curmudgeon can still appreciate a well timed and executed fart joke. Indeed, there were a couple in this film that had me laughing out loud.
Having written that, it does feel as though once the filmmakers decided upon using fart humour as their “in” with the audience, they erred too far on the excessive. Flatulent sound effects abound and with each passing joke they become less humorous and more groan-inducing.
Further, while the film’s central thesis examines the ecological impact of methane discharge from cattle and other livestock, it also leans heavily into the fart as its subject. Entire sequences lose sight of the environmental focus, instead discussing the psychology of human flatulence, the history of fart jokes, the creation of the modern version of the whoopee cushion (manufactured here in Toronto), and, bafflingly, Satan.
To write that the film is extremely uneven in its intended message would be being generous. This really does feel like two completely different movies. The first being similar to Vice President Al Gore’s 2006 ecological lecture An Inconvenient Truth, as well as conversely 2017’s Poop Talk. At times it strives to tell a cautionary tale about climate change, and other times it attempts to destigmatize the passing of gas. While I admire the film for trying to find a fun way to address a very serious topic, it frequently loses the plot due to its narrative concessions.
As mentioned above, there are some genuinely funny moments in here, as well as facts and figures that are presented in such a way that they come across as tremendously impactful, alarming and critical. There are also some animated sequences that are fun and endearing (although a mid-credits animated piece is just very odd).
Still, Who Farted?, while somewhat entertaining and informative, is a film that doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to be. I did find some enjoyment from it, but more often than not, it left me rather frustrated. To me, it’s a documentary that has its heart planted firmly in the right place, but its execution is completely off.
Who Farted? debuts tonight at 9PM on the Documentary Channel.