I was sent this some time ago to review, unfortunately it was just at the time I was starting Filmstalker and time was tight, not to mention that there wasn't the audience to justify the review. Now there is both, the audience and the time so here's the review of the bumper DVD edition of Free Enterprise.
I had heard of this film before I received it, knowing that it starred William Shatner, but I had no idea that Eric McCormick was in the film too, and playing a younger version of Will. I was also surprised by the film itself, the storyline wasn't about Star Trek (well not all of it) but about guys, growing up, and the biggest storyline of all, getting women.
The film surprised me with its content, in a good way. This story is really about two best friends who share an almost insane passion for all things Star Trek and Sci-Fi, yes these guys are geeks, but real geeks. They have lives too, although one seems to struggle at keeping his on track even if he is an unusual hit with the ladies for a geek.
They talk about laserdiscs and comic books, quote Star Wars and argue over which episode of which series of Star Trek was the best. Yes geeks they may begin the film being, but this is the story of how these guys have to finally grow up, and to do that their imaginary mentor from their younger days comes back into their life, for real.
The two lead characters are what the story is really about, and secondary to this is the idea that relationships are about acceptance and understanding. It's a good story, if told in a somewhat disjointed manner. At times it just doesn't flow smoothly and you seem to leap to a pivotal moment without the necessary build up, it just doesn't run as well as other romantic or buddy movies do.
However the real world connection is strong, and whatever level of geek you are (for less face it, we all are in some way or another) the characters will strike a chord with you, it may be a minor or major, but there's a chord there. For me some of the out of the blue film quotes in the middle of conversations reminded me of myself and friends, then there were the bragging about DVD editions, oh there are a lot of moments in there that I could identify with. Although really, I'm really not that much of a geek…Ahem.
William Shatner is funny. There's no doubt about it, although there are a few moments where you're wondering if he's just not going to continue his lines, as he seems to pause in the middle for an uncomfortable amount of time, or stammers his lines out.
Yet this does something which is perfect for his character, it makes him come across as incredibly natural and believable, particularly when he's being emotive about something he's passionate about. The man can act and has some great comic timing, and bear in mind that this was before his TV resurrection. This isn't the Kirk-Shatner we would expect, but a real world Shatner, a shattered hero, a real person.
It's his character that really steals the movie and carries the theme through. His Julius Ceaser idea exemplifies the theme of the film and his part is played perfectly to build up to a terrific delivery of what life is all about.
Both Eric McCormack and Rafer Weigel play well together, and some of Weigel's scenes are so indentifiable with. Their performances are equally relazed and natural, even when they come to lines of geek dialogue which doesn't quite seem to suit their exteriors, particularly as we now know McCormack as Will from Will and Grace.
The other cast are strong, especially those who are obviously friends with bit parts. There are only a few of these that feel stilted or overacted, but then this is a low budget film made with as much help from friends as possible and that just adds to the charm and the real world geekness of it.
It is the simple story of growing up, of how people need to shed the images of the heroes of their youth and move forward in life, and of honest to goodness love and friendship that makes this film so attractive. The film references and geek aspect all just add to the humour and accessibility of the story.
That said, some of the references are very American based or deep into sci-fi or comics, so I found that some of them just flew right over me and it wasn't until some were explained in the extras that I appreciated them.
Something about the film that did bother me while watching was the camera work. At times the screen looks as though it's been cut for TV as the characters might appear partially in shot for a moment, or at times there would be some focusing issues and the main character in shot would be blurry. There were moments like this that seem very simple things that were over looked, especially when so much detail was paid to other areas of the film.
The editing, at times, seemed a little light and there are definitely scenes and transitions that could have done with a little more scissor action. However some things looked really good, the lighting was great throughout the film, and it just added to the natural feeling.
Overall, for such a small budget and first time feature, this has turned out to be a enjoyable film. Scripting and acting is good, and although some areas could have done with a little more attention, I had fun watching it. Shatner is superb here, and this is perhaps where his comeback began.
The colour saturation was slightly high, but nothing too distracting, other than that the quality of the picture was okay. There doesn't seem to have been any digital remastering for the DVD. At times the framing of a scene was too tight, resulting in people too far out of frame, or heads slightly too cropped. This wasn't really a big problem but at the odd moment it was quite distracting. The lighting on the film is good, all quite natural.
Presented: Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1
Good, nothing spectacular as there is really only dialogue to be heard, but the 5.1 offering is here.
ExtrasPresented: Audio Commentary with writer/producer and writer/director Mark A. Altman and Robert Meyer Burnett, Audio Commentary with Robert Meyer Burnett, William Shatner, Eric McCormack and Rafer Weigel, Making Free Enterprise Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Screentests, Music Video "No Tears For Ceasar", Café Fantastique television pilot, DVD Rom Screenplays, Collectable Booklet
Audio Commentary with writer/producer and writer/director Mark A. Altman and Robert Meyer Burnett:
This is a really strong commentary, mainly because we have the guys who are the writers and the people behind the actual characters. So not only do we find out everything behind the scenes and the film, but we also find out the stories behind the characters and what really happened. Very insightful and quite funny at times, this goes a long way to telling just what went into the script and the film. An excellent commentary.
Audio Commentary with Robert Meyer Burnett, William Shatner, Eric McCormack and Rafer Weigel:
Although we don't hear too much from Shatner, we do hear a lot from the other actors. What would have been good is if they had listened to the previous commentary because, particularly for the director, there's some repetition of facts. However the actors together are very funny and we do get to hear a lot more of behind the camera details and some more about the characters. Interestingly you can tell there's a time difference between the two commentaries as in the first they are talking about the idea of a sequel and that there were no script pages submitted and in the second there's talk of a script and some scenes. Again, another strong commentary and some great moments from Shatner.
Making Free Enterprise Featurette:
There is some great behind the scenes footage and more discussion about how this film actually got made, far better than your average featurette, a word which usually fills me with disappointment.
There are quite a few deleted scenes on the DVD which flesh out some of the characters and scenes a bit more, as well as a couple of easter eggs which aren't that hard to find. Actually I think I underplayed that, there's loads of footage in the deleted scenes section, plenty to keep you going.
These are the screentests for some of the stars of the film, interestingly not them all, but some. They show pretty good performances and are surprisingly close to the finished film. A good addition to the extras although I would have loved to have seen more.
Music Video: No More Tears For Ceasar:
Although this does feel a little like car crash television, there's also something special about it. Shatner reciting Shakespeare to Hip Hop. You may think you don't need to see this again from the end of the film, but you'll be drawn to it!
Café Fantastique television pilot:
I really found this interesting. The main characters from the film sit in a bar and discuss some cult classic films and DVD's, and there's a special guest too. It's far more interesting than a lot of similar shows on TV because they are naturally forgetting about the camera and talking as friends, and all with a passion for what they are discussing. Shame it never went further.
Some more behind the scenes information, facts from the film and set photos. There's also an interesting glossary of the geeky terms used in the film, just so you can learn them yourself and start using them in everyday life...again!
OverallI found that when I watched the film a couple more times for the Audio Commentaries that I was enjoying the film even more and that I was getting something extra with each viewing. Mostly I was appreciating the actors performances more than I had the first time round as well as the human story behind the fun and the geekdom.
The film is surprisingly good, and I mean surprising from the moment when you read the blurb to the moment you begin watching, enjoying and amazingly connecting with it. You will connect with the characters and the film, and you will enjoy it. You can see Shatner giving an inspired performance as a complete anti-hero, who actually does turn out to be a hero after all, and the story of two friends who finally get their lives and become a little more serious about life. Yet they never lose that love of sci-fi...and let's face it who doesn't?
It is enjoyable, and it is funny, more so because there's real passion behind the film and a huge amount of reality. It's not so much about geekdom and more about the maturing and growing up, a guys film first and a geeks film second.
This Five Year Mission Extended Edition 2 Disc Set (if they could get a bigger name for it) is a superb offering, and typically geeky in itself. Filled with information, photos and behind the scenes reveals, it's got everything you could want on a DVD. I just wish the second commentary was a little stronger and maybe had a few more cast members involved.
All in all it makes a great Xmas present for the thirtysomething plus ex-geek, or current, who loves all things sci-fi, but don't forget that there's a real story in there of growing up and maturing...yeah, but the sci-fi part is fun too. A different gift that might just surprise the person you're giving it to, in a good way.
IMDB Film details
Buy Free Enterprise from Anchor Bay