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Case Number 00591

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Free Enterprise

Pioneer // 1998 // 114 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dean Roddey (Retired) // June 19th, 2000

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All Rise...

The Charge

Live long, and party.

Opening Statement

Free Enterprise is the ultimate good-natured homage-slash-parody of Star Trek that this reviewer has ever seen. Though Galaxy Quest is also quite a hoot, Free Enterprise just had me rolling around on the couch. If you are not a Trekkie or ex-Trekkie, you'd probably still enjoy it somewhat, but a lot of it would be completely unfunny.

Robert and Mark are two filmmaker wannabes. They work for a small time production company that mainly does really bad, sexploitation films of the sort that you see very late at night on cable. When we meet Mark, his is trying to break out by pitching a film called "Brady Killers" to a bigger production company, in which a serial killer stalks only women named Marsha, Jan, and Cindy. But, as you can imagine, it's not going over terribly well.

Robert and Mark are complete Trekkies, of the old school, i.e. they are devotees of the original Star Trek series and think that William Shatner is a god of sorts. They are the kinds of guys who bought the Star Trek technical manuals, and went to school in Star Trek outfits. They can quote you from any episode and name the title, plot, and release date for any episode within seconds of seeing a clip from it. Otherwise though, they are completely different. Robert is a womanizing party animal slacker who avoids commitment via serial infidelity, and Mark avoids commitment by pretending to be above it and wedded to his career.

One day at the bookstore though, they actually see William Shatner, browsing the porn magazine rack. In their own subtle "we're really not stalkers" sort of way, they ingratiate themselves with the master, only to find out that he is completely coming apart at the seams. He's half alcoholic, obsessed with doing a one man, musical version, of Julius Caesar, horrible with the ladies, and incredibly lonely.

Though there isn't any plot per se, the bulk of the story follows the story lines of their relationship with Shatner, Robert's up and down relationship with his girlfriend Claire, played by Audie England (Delta of Venus, Soundman, Shame, Shame, Shame), Mark's facing turning thirty and loneliness, and just random silliness related to power geek young males and their interest in science fiction movies and its paraphernalia.

William Shatner is great, in my humble opinion. He is completely ready (and in fact insisted upon) being portrayed as an imperfect man and to make fun of his public persona. According to the information on the DVD, the original plot made Shatner out to be some sort of demigod, but he passed on it a few times because he thought it was unrealistic. Eventually he agreed, if the script were changed to make him more realistic and flawed. So the writers rewrote the script to better fit his vision, and the results are almost certainly far better in every way.

Robert, played by Rafer Weigel (Rated X, Other American Fables), and Mark, played by Eric McCormack (Holy Man, The Lost World, Giant Steps), are great in their roles as well. They perfectly capture that Trekkie who never grew up vibe, and the fast and furious dialogue between them will leave dedicated Sci-Fi fans choking in laughter more than once. They frame all of the situations in their lives in terms of similar situations in this or that film or TV series, make runs to Toys-R-Us to collect action figures, and do group ventures to midnight movie fests.

Audie England is excellent as the woman who finally shows Robert what true love is really about, and makes him grow up a bit. I'd seen her before in Delta of Venus, but didn't recognize her until I looked up her filmography. Delta of Venus was kind of an artsy, sexy film where she didn't talk a lot but just looked very beautiful and semi-nude. In this film she really gets to act and have some fun, and she is very believable as a woman who can match Robert's knowledge of Sci-Fi. She could definitely make this techno-nerd bachelor put down some stakes.

The Evidence

The video on this DVD is pretty good for a non-anamorphic, though with all the laughing it might not matter much. The format is 1.85:1. It mostly takes place indoors, and there are a good number of nighttime or dark scenes.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is also good for this type of film. But, since it's mostly a talkie, its not going to stress out your system particularly. The vocals are easily understood, which is a good thing because of the often rapid-fire repartee.

The extras include a good "making of" documentary and a very interesting commentary track from the writer/directory team. The content of the film is heavily based on their own lives, and it's their break out film into which they put a lot of effort, which often makes for a good commentary track. Other extras include deleted scenes, a music video, and screen tests.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

There isn't much bad to say. Of course we'd always prefer an anamorphic transfer, but this is a small film, made on a small budget. It only became somewhat of a phenomenon after the fact. Perhaps there will be an upgraded release in the future, but I wouldn't hold my breath probably.

Closing Statement

If you are a Sci-Fi fan, and particularly if you saw every original Star Trek episode at least once, if not ten times, then you absolutely must see Free Enterprise. It's a wonderfully silly romp, and pokes fun at the genre without being at all disrespectful. Obviously the writers, being Trekkies themselves, are writing about themselves, but have a great sense of humor about it.

The Verdict

I acquitted them, because they made me laugh so hard I wet myself and had to go change.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 85
Extras: 95
Acting: 90
Story: 92
Judgment: 97

Perp Profile

Studio: Pioneer
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailer
• Commentary Track
• Deleted Scenes
• Making Of Documentary
• Music Video
• Screen Tests


• IMDb

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