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Originally published Friday, October 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"I.O.U.S.A.": Financial truths caught on film

"I.O.U.S.A." is Patrick Creadon's scary new documentary about the current economic meltdown.

Movie review 3 stars

"I.O.U.S.A." a documentary directed by Patrick Creadon, from a screenplay by Creadon, Christine O'Malley and Addison Wiggin, based on the book "Empire of Debt" by Wiggin and William Bonner. 85 minutes. Rated PG for thematic elements. Uptown.

If this week's headlines have failed to convince you that the United States is on the verge of an economic meltdown, Patrick Creadon's scary new documentary, "I.O.U.S.A.," will demolish any lingering doubts.

A kind of "greatest-hits" survey of dire prophecies and warnings, it includes choice comments from such modern Cassandras as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and former President George H.W. Bush.

Based on Addison Wiggin and William Bonner's book, "Empire of Debt," the movie follows committed economics experts Dave Walker and Bob Bixby as they take their "Fiscal Wakeup Tour" around the country. Jon Stewart, Steve Martin and the current President Bush provide comic relief.

Inevitably, director Creadon ("Wordplay") makes use of charts, statistics and editing tricks that don't always play fair. But he deftly mixes them up with talking heads who have something to say — and carefully chosen archival footage that demonstrates how we got into this multitrillion-dollar mess.

It's almost comforting to know that we were running a huge deficit during the Revolutionary War, and that the Civil War almost bankrupted the country. But this historical perspective eventually reveals the fact that the current catastrophe represents uncharted and rather terrifying territory.

John Hartl, Special to The Times

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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