If we could all pick a washed-up actor to deliver our eulogies, most of us probably wouldn’t put Ed Begley Jr. at the top of the list. Such, however, is the fate of the electric car, at whose mock interment the former St. Elsewhere healer is joined by the likes of thirtysomething alumnus Peter Horton and Baywatch babe emerita Alexandra Paul. To be publicly mourned by a passel of grade-C celebrities must qualify as some kind of crime, but in Who Killed the Electric Car? documentarian Chris Paine is on the track of a much larger and potentially society-implicating felony. He wants to know why a cool, safe, zero-emission technology that began with such promise in 1996 should have vanished from U.S. roadways within 10 years. Moreover, he wants to know why even the deliriously happy folks who wanted to hold on to their precious GM EV1s and Honda EV+ had to fork them over to impounders and auto-shredders as leases were terminated. Who Killed the Electric Car? might be structured like a game of Clue—Was it Ford Motor Company? With a half-hearted rollout? In the San Fernando Valley?—but it’s closer in spirit to an episode of Columbo. The villains are obvious from the get-go—and it’s only a matter of time before Paine’s gumshoe camera finds the holes in their alibis. As narrated by leftist scold Martin Sheen, the doc makes all the expected points about oil dependency and the internal-combustion engine and argues its case with force and cogency. But there’s something almost necrophiliac about the film’s obsession with its subject, which failed at least in part because few people outside a conic section of the 90210 zip really wanted a vehicle that pooped out after 60 to 70 miles. As Paine himself acknowledges, better-performing hybrids such as the Toyota Prius have been steadily expanding their market share and are on the way to phasing out their use of petroleum entirely. So what exactly are we mourning? That a ginormous manufacturing industry has been somewhat slow to retool itself? That might be a source of regret, but surely even Ted Danson has better things to weep over.—Louis Bayard