FREE ENTERPRISE (SE)
Reviewed by: Ryan Doom
Robert Meyer Burnett
What's it about
Itís the epic struggle of the nerd, well two nerds in fact, as they deal with love, work and William Shatner. Tagline: Clerks meets Swings.
Is it good movie?
Free Enterprise is basically a nerdier version of Clerks if thatís possible. The characters here, Robert and Mark (played by Rafer Weigel and Eric McCormack), spout out Trek knowledge like it's second nature and question any one who doubts the federation. They donít just like Star Trek, they live their lives by the code. Not a Klingon or Vulcan code, but the code of one James T. Kirk. He is their model for their manhood, so they say, however, neither character lives up to that level of manhood. In fact, for a duo turning 30, these two have a long way to go. By luck, these two bump into William Shatner, the man, the myth. No bigger fans exist than our two main characters. When they meet the living legend, they can barely contain themselves. And while itís obvious that things wonít go well, the reason it doesnít is downright stupid. I had the preconceived notion (that's bad, yes, I know) of that Shat outburst at all Trekkies on SNL. That seemed the natural fit. Instead, the Shatner here is just nuts. He wants the boys to produce his epic Julius Caesar the Musical, starring Shat in ALL the roles. Sure, thatís wacky and all, but is it enough? Does that make him so crazy that the boys would distance themselves from their idol? Shatner attempts to play it up, and he performs admirably, but the script fails him. The potential for geekness disappeared. If you have a movie tying Trek and Shatner, you better play to the fans, not service an incredibly lame love story.
Now as a fan of Trek (I admit!) and all things movies, this is the type of flick that Iíll either love or be embarrassed by. Itís all about the level of geekness. In a Kevin Smith movie, which Free Enterprise borrows heavily from, geeks and geek knowledge rule. They express their love for Han Solo in a way that makes it seem normal to dig such a thing, and we as an audience buy it because we buy that these characters exist. Smithís characters, while usually conceded and low on the social ladder, embrace their nerdiness and nearly make it acceptable. And while Free Enterprise attempts the same formula, the end result is an insult to any nerd. Instead of exploring the Trek system, the nerds, the lifestyle, or why these characters live their life by a code, the movie instead exploits the fandom. Clerks embraced the geek. Free Enterprise just learned the lingo. These arenít Star Trek fans. These are actors who learned their lines. They arenít characters. Both Weigel and McCormack attempt to become the next Jay and Silent Bob, but only the latter emerge as lovable. These characters are anything but. Sure, moments exist where I identified and rooted for the characters. In fact, there are some great moments in here, including a wonderful Loganís Run reference for all of us nearing 30. With all that said, the filmmakers wanted to reach that character level of realism that Smith achieved. They tried, but came up short. Next time, if you have Shatner playing himself, you better use him.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen Presentation.
Audio: Dolby Stereo. Nothing fancy here.
Commentary: This has co-writer Mark A. Altman and director Robert Meyer Burnett. Like everything on the special features on this DVD, this is very informative, pointing out quite of few things I didn't pick up on (like the James Bond opening). You can definitely tell these guys know their Trek.
Where No Film Has Gone Before: A very good and insightful behind-the-scenes feature exploring all aspects of the film. Frankly, it made me appreciate it all much more and all the effort put forth.
Deleted Scenes: 14 scenes here, mostly I can see why they were cut. But there's a good Shatner one.
Screentests: An excellent insight at what actors have to go through to get a part. A lot of clevage. No Shatner.
Glossary of Free Enterprise Phrases: A dictionary for non-geeks. Quite funny.
No Tears for Caesar Video: It's Shatner doing what he does best, making a fool of himself. He's not singing here, he's rapping, which is even better.
Free Enterprise was ripe with potential, but ended up falling short on the promise. With a throw away love story and not enough Shatner, it ends up being another Clerks ripoff, which it could have avoided with a stronger script.