Have you ever read a book, listened to an album, or watched a movie where at the end, you couldnâ€™t decide whether or not you liked it? You think â€œThis book/album/movie seemed good enough, so why canâ€™t I say I liked it?â€ I know I have. I usually get this weird, uneasy feeling whenever this happens. Luckily for the majority of you, you donâ€™t have to sit down and write a review about your experience. So bear with me folks, as I attempt to review the film Free Enterprise, and maybe discern whether or not I ultimately liked it or not.
The movie opens with two establishing scenes of what we are led to believe are going to be our main characters. Young Mark is desperately trying to get into a theater to see the first Star Trek movie, while mini-Robert is being used as a human punching bag because he picked a fight with a kid twice his size for saying that Han Solo is cooler than Captain Kirk. In their respective moments of great duress, they are visited by an imaginary William Shatner, who doles out some sage advice. Years later, we find that Mark (Eric McCormack) and Rob (Rafer Weigel) have held on to their nerdy ways. Mark is an editor of his own magazine, Geek, while Rob works as a film editor, and would rather spend his petty cash on rare collectibles rather than pay his rent, electric, or phone bills.
Seeing as theyâ€™re both stereotypical near-30 year old geeks, it isnâ€™t a stretch to believe that they have problems with the â€˜opposite sex.â€™ Mark canâ€™t get into a serious relationship because he is always looking for the â€œperfect woman,â€ and Rob wonâ€™t settle down because he always alienates his ladyfriends with constant talk of comic books, Star Trek, and general nerd-culture. And because he doesnâ€™t pay his rent or electricity. Letâ€™s not forget that. Mark is also worried about turning 30, and will tell anyone whoâ€™s listening about how much heâ€™s freaking out.
On a particularly rough night, before heading to their regular bar the two decide to stop off at a bookstore, mostly to browse and blow off some steam. As they turn a corner, they come face-to-face with their idol, Mr. William Shatner. After a few minutes of fanboy rambling, Mark and Rob eventually befriend Shatner, and he shares some of his problems with them. See, Bill is having lady problems as well, but thatâ€™s not important. The real reason for his stress is that he wants to produce and direct in a musical version of William Shakespeareâ€™s Julius Caesar. He also wants to play the leadâ€¦ all of the leads, in fact. Hereâ€™s a bit of weird history for you. As awesome and ridiculous as a one-man show Julius Caesar sounds, it was actually the project Orson Wells was working on at the time of his death. And now you know.
The film progresses through a few more character establishing scenes, mostly involving conversations about comics, action figures, Star Trek, and relationships. Before the movie gets too stagnant, Rob meets Claire (Audie England), the girl of his dreams, in this case, a dry, sarcastic comic book girl who bought his held back copy of The Sandman before he could. So they start dating. More character establishing scenes follow, this time showing that Rob has been spending an increasing amount of time with Claire, to the point where he is openly blowing off work. As a result, Rob gets canned, and Claire leaves him. While all this is going on, Mark complains about turning 30 again, and has a meeting with the Shat, who rambles on about his one-man play.
Rob mopes, Mark frets, and Shat has more delusions of grandeur. Rob goes out drinking with Bill, where Shatner doles out some of his special brand of advice on womenâ€¦ and then makes a fool out of himself when he drunkenly tries to put the moves on the owner of the bar. The movie culminates in a massive birthday bash for Mark. The scene is chock full of various quick shots of the geek conversations being held in the crowd, ranging from interesting to nearly incoherent. Rob gets back together with Claire, Mark no longer frets about being 30, and the Shat performs a rap about Julius Caesar.
Overall, Free Enterprise is an OK movie. Itâ€™s pretty funny, the geek-speak is factual, and it has William Shatner. All positive points in my opinion. I think part of the problem I had is that I had this â€œIâ€™ve seen this beforeâ€ feeling while watching this movie. I mean, two guys talking a lot about pop culture and their ever-mounting women problems and complain about their day jobs from time to time. Sound familiar? I bet it does. Free Enterprise share many thematic elements, plot points, and even static camera shots with Kevin Smithâ€™s first 3 films, which were all widely available at the time of Free Enterpriseâ€™s creation.
I also want to take a moment to bring up a topic that the movie, while not causing my frustration, attributed to need to write about it. Free Enterprise is built largely on the notion that girls donâ€™t get comic books, sci-fi movies, and anything identifies as â€œgeeky.â€ In my own experience, this is completely without merit. I worked for years in a comic book shop (the now-closed Uncle Daveâ€™s Comix and Hobby, where the owner was neither an uncle nor named Dave), Iâ€™ve been to various conventions, and Iâ€™ve watched the G4 channel. I can tell you here and now that girls dig geek culture. Heck, Iâ€™m dating a girl who has a pull list longer than my own! The idea Hollywood tries to push, the idea that women donâ€™t understand or enjoy the nerdier things in life needs to end.
Free Enterprise has the distinction of being one of the first, if not the first, films where William Shatner decided make a career out of playing an exaggerated caricature of himself. He really brings his â€œAâ€ game, and his rap at the end is reason enough to at least rent the movie. The pop culture discussions donâ€™t sound faked or forced, and is another highlight in the film. From what Iâ€™ve read, this is because a lot of the dialog had been taken from actual conversations the co-writers/producers/directors had in real life. However, removing these two elements will leave Free Enterprise with an incredibly thin plot, relatively no humor, and a lackluster love story that makes Failure to Launch look like Casablanca.
Honestly, I guess what it comes down to when deciding if I liked Free Enterprise is whether or not I was entertained. And while I thought the Shatner scenes were top notch in hilarity, ultimately I canâ€™t say that I enjoyed the film. Maybe your viewing experience will differ from mine, but I just canâ€™t see myself giving it a passing grade. It is with a heavy heart that I give Free Enterprise 2 out of 5 stars.
I guess even Captain Kirk canâ€™t win every time.