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Pioneer Entertainment presents
Free Enterprise (1999)

Claire: You know, maybe you should start living in the present instead of the 24th century.
Robert: I would never live in the 24th century. I f***ing hate The Next Generation. Only the original series! Only classic!

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: September 27, 2000

Stars: Rafer Weigel, Eric McCormack
Other Stars: Audie England, William Shatner
Director: Robert Meyer Burnett

Manufacturer: Pioneer
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and explicit language
Run Time: 01h:54m:00s
Release Date: November 09, 1999
UPC: 013023032798
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B+C+B A+

DVD Review

Ever met a "true geek"? You know the type—more likely to remember what day Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan made its theatrical debut than to remember, say, your birthday. Hey, if you are going out of your way to visit a DVD site, more likely than not you are a geek yourself. Don't worry, no one is judging you here. In fact, if you feel like too much of a geek, watch this movie—these guys are way geekier than you. Free Enterprise, written by Mark A. Altman (writer for Cinescape) and Robert Meyer Burnett (Dead in the West), plays as a tribute to the geekiest of those among us—a romantic comedy with a sci-fi twist. Oh, and it is pretty funny even for people who don't know Captain Kirk from Kirk Douglas.

The plot centers around two old friends—Robert (Rafer Weigel) and Mark (Eric McCormack—TV's Will and Grace), and their mission to explore a strange new world— adulthood. Both Mark and Robert are floundering in life. Mark is an ambitious filmmaker trying to get his dream project off the ground (Bradykiller— hey, I'd see it) and Robert has just lost his job editing B-movies for a third rate film company. Everything changes when they meet their idol, Kirk himself—William Shatner (played by Shatner in a hilarious send-up of his "actor" persona).

Unfortunately, the two find that Shatner isn't the man he's cracked up to be. He's, well - just cracked. He explains his idea for the most brilliant film of all time—a musical adaptation of Julius Caesar (with three intermissions!). With the inspiration from their childhood idol, Robert and Mark must overcome their childish natures, stop spending so much time obsessing over obscure sci-fi ("We're the only ones who even remember Logan's Run!"), and just grow-up. Of course, there are some complications of the female variety. Robert has to grow the most if he wants to have a successful relationship with geekette Claire (Audie England—TV's The Beach Boys).

Chances are the only person you have heard of in this film is Eric McCormack, but don't assume there aren't people here worth knowing. Rafer Weigel gives a hilarious, "Jason Lee" performance, and Anders England is pretty good as Claire, delivering a charming performance in a role that could've come off as shrill and annoying. The supporting cast includes more TV actors, most noteably Phil Lamarr from Mad TV. All of the supporting cast (many of whom worked on the film) give good, believable performances, except for maybe Patrick Van Horn, who plays the "stud" Sean, and is pretty irritating.

The reason this film is so enjoyable is not the direction or set design; due to the film's budget, both are rather mediocre. Rather the script, which many major films seem to ignore, is the reason for success here. Altman and Burnett have craftily woven equal parts sci-fi, comedy and romance to create a surprisingly touching film. The back of the box lists it as "Swingers meets Play It Again, Sam," and I'd say that would fit perfectly. Just mix in a bit of Clerks to cover the rampant film references and you have one of the funniest undiscovered gems out there.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I know this was an independent film, but that still does not excuse the fact that this image is not anamorphically enhanced (the director even mentions the fact that it isn't in the commentary). Despite that rather disappointing tidbit of information, however, the transfer presented is decent, considering the film's low budget nature. Colors are a bit muted, but overall, color contrast and black level are pretty good. Unfortunately, the image is rather soft, especially in very bright, backlit scenes. The biggest problem I had with the transfer, however, was the quite noticeable amount of edge-enhancement. However, as I said, the image is certainly passable considering the nature of the film. If it were anamorphic, the image would've rated at least a B-.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio transfer here is nothing impressive, but it fits the mold for a low budget romantic comedy. Everything is firmly centered in the front channels, with music split between the left and right mains, and dialogue anchored in the center. Surrounds are totally inactive, which is expected. Because the dialogue is always clear and the music never overpowers, the audio rates as more than adequate for the film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Trivia with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
14 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer Mark A. Altman and Writer/Director/Editor Robert Meyer Burnett
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Glossary of Free Enterprise terms
  2. Actor's screen tests
  3. Trivia subtitles
  4. No Tears for Caesar music video
Extras Review: For a film I'd never heard of prior to the DVD release, this disc has a surprising number of extras, and everything here is of excellent quality. In fact, excluding such powerhouses as Fight Club, T2: The Ultimate Edition, and The Abyss, this is perhaps the best special edition DVD I own.

The most substantial extras are the commentary, the deleted scenes, and the making-of documentary. First of all, the commentary track is right up there with Mallrats for a track that is just as entertaining as the film. Altman and Burnett were recorded together, and they talk constantly, revealing bits of trivia hidden in the film, recounting what they had to go through to get Shatner involved, and explaining just how autobiographical the film is. When I pull out this disc, I am as like as not going to be viewing it with the commentary on. The deleted scenes are excellent as well. Over 30 minutes of cut and extended sections are included, presented in almost finished widescreen form, but not quite as cleaned up as the rest of the film. Most helpfully, each scene is prefaced by a short text screen explaining where the scene took place and why it was cut. This was a nice feature, considering that many discs simply edit all the scenes together in a loop, with no indication as to where they were supposed to have been placed in the film. Finally, the documentary (entitled Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Making of Free Enterprise) is perhaps the best extra on the disc. It isn't much to look at as it was shot on video and rather poorly mastered, but it what it lacks in image quality it makes up for in content. It runs about one hour, and included are extensive interviews with all the important parties (including Kirk himself, William Shatner), looks at scenes in progress, and tons of information about the writing and editing processes. After listening to the commentary and watching the documentary, you will know EVERYTHING there is to know about Free Enterprise.

But wait! There are still some very interesting extras left! In addition to the usual production notes, bios, and trailers, there are actor's screen tests, a trivia subtitle track, and even a glossary! The screen tests are rather humorous, especially the one that features an actress doing her best Meg Ryan impression from When Harry Met Sally. The trivia subtitles are very cool. These occur throughout the film, and explain all the references to pop culture and classic sci-fi made by the characters. This way, even the "geek-lite" can enjoy some of the film's more subtle jokes. Finally, the Free Enterprise Glossary of Terms covers basically the same area as the subtitle track, albeit in an abbreviated form. The glossary lists several pages of words or phrases uttered by the characters in the film and defines them by their geek roots.

Overall, Free Enterprise features the best all around extras package for any film of its type. They never feel excessive; they simply make a good film even more enjoyable. Hey, shouldn't ALL extras do that?

Extras Grade: A+


Final Comments

If Free Enterprise hits a little too close to home, don't fret. I saw more of myself in these characters than I would like to admit. The film plays as an homage to geek culture, where the subjects are honored, rather than made fun of. Plus, it is damn funny! The first time I heard Phil Lamarr say "Almost there!" I almost peed my pants laughing. What? Don't get the reference? Watch the movie!


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