Goddamn if we didn't have the bejesus freaked out of us after 9/11, but, hey, hallelujah! President Bush knew just what to say to reassure the citizenry: Travel, go shopping, take the kids to Disneyland. Our way of life may have been under attack, but our credit rating was strong, and we were called on to fight back not with guns but with funds, brandishing our MasterCards in the face of the heathens. According to Seattle-raised James Scurlock, it was this memorable moment of late-capitalist dementia that provoked him to film Maxed Out (seen here at SIFF '06), a documentary concerned with predatory lending and the American debt crisis with a heavy human-interest angle, and to write a book of the same name. Surveying the culture of debt, Maxed Out the book skims over government deregulation of the banking industry, the proliferation of bottom-feeding debt collectors, and the real-estate industry, illustrating how the latter functions as a "debt-delivery mechanism." It's a wiser investment than a ticket bought to the documentary, a slapdash piece of work totally indebted to secondhand rhetorical strategies (the '50s educational film; glib Bush-bashing) and threadbare indignation. NATHAN LEE
Harvard's Elizabeth Warren warns against debt.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., March 9. Not rated. 86 minutes.