I didn’t understand plate tectonics until Zac Efron explained them to me.
Sure, I’m a 24-year-old woman living in the earthquake capital of the United States, and who, unlike many of my peers, actually paid attention in seventh grade science class. And yes, I may have completed numerous environmental science and geology courses to fulfill my bachelors degree requirements in college. But still, somehow, it wasn’t until Efron’s semi-informed, dulcet tones left his inexplicably shiny lips in his latest Netflix project that I came to grasp the concept completely.
A trip worth taking if you love Zac or believe you have the capacity to love Zac.
“It may not seem like much,” the beefcake professor said of the gap between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, a gulf that widens approximately two and a half centimeters each year (or so the perfectly tanned academic tells me). “But over millions of years? You get the picture.”
You’re right, Zac. I do get the picture — thanks to you. What I’m supposed to do with that information? I have no idea and I’m fairly certain you don’t either!
I have zero clue what Netflix’s Down to Earth with Zac Efron was trying to accomplish. The eight-part limited docuseries, streaming all episodes today, presumably wasn’t intended to educate aged-out High School Musical fans about the Earth’s shifting lithosphere. But it does that and a laundry list of other vaguely connected things fairly well in the first two episodes provided to Mashable for review.
Described as a travel show, Down to Earth combines Bill Nye-style voiceovers with Parts Unknown-like cinematography while chronicling Efron and self-proclaimed wellness guru Darin Olien’s journey to find healthy, sustainable lifestyle choices around the globe.
Their exploration takes them to Iceland, France, and briefly a water bar in West Hollywood with Anna Kendrick during the first two episodes. While there, the duo’s activities, like their flimsily defined thesis, veer all over the map. We see them visit the Miraculous Healing Waters of Lourdes, make chocolate at an Omnom location in Reykjavík, tour numerous sustainable energy locations (that’s where the whole tectonic plates explanation came into play), and get hot and cold stone massages at what I’m pretty sure was a Hilton hotel.
Along the way, Efron and Olien talk about the ways we can take care of ourselves and our planet, eat a lot of really expensive vegan food, do an alarming number of Gollum and Yoda impressions, and get into a heated argument with a French doctor that’s never fully explained but is thoroughly uncomfortable. It’s a fun enough, silly enough, educational enough trip worth taking if you love Zac or believe you have the capacity to love Zac. But you must love Zac to love Down to Earth.
It’s never fully clear what we as viewers are supposed to take away from this excursion aside from some fun facts Efron reads off a script and Olien’s profoundly granola vibes. The only through-line in this series I could find was that Zac Efron is in all of it, everyone around him knows how famous he is, and he’s saying things about sustainability in a way that’s vaguely convincing. It’s not resonant, it’s not revelatory, it’s just a professional himbo going on a vacation paid for by Netflix. And honestly, I’m not mad at it! He had fun, I had fun, Wildcats in the house, etc.
TL;DR If you want to watch Zac Efron do things, then this is the show for you. If you do not want to watch Zac Efron do things, then perhaps it is not.
Down to Earth with Zac Efron is now streaming on Netflix.