First the bad news, courtesy of Patrick Creadon's alarming new documentary I.O.U.S.A.: Our country is drowning in a flood of debt of near-biblical proportions. We're talking trillions of dollars. Thanks to centuries of gross fiscal irresponsibility, the budget deficit is enormous and steadily spiraling out of control. Its vastness and the short-sided myopia of our current leaders, especially the free-spending warriors in the White House, pose a dire threat to the economic health of future generations. Now the good news: Well, there really isn't any good news, except that if we embrace belt-tightening and financial discipline, our economic future might look mildly less cataclysmic than it does today. How's that for a pick-me-up?

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Using an avalanche of charts, statistics, and talking heads, Creadon traces the alarming rise of the national debt, from the Revolutionary War to the current fiscal crisis. Creadon's heroes are a smattering of numbers-crunching, pencil-necked geeks committed to alerting an oblivious, apathetic nation that unless we change our ways, we're headed toward a bleak future that'll make the Great Depression look like a minor cash-flow crisis.

If anyone can make this kind of grim subject material palatable to a mass audience, it'd seemingly be Creadon, whose breezy, enjoyable crossword-puzzle documentary Wordplay was a sleeper hit. But Creadon doesn't sugarcoat a very real, little-discussed catastrophe in the making. All the sugar in the world wouldn't make his frightening conclusions any easier to swallow. Though the filmmaking is playful at times, the film is essentially 90 percent message, 10 percent movie. Then again, sometimes a message is important enough to make other considerations seem irrelevant.