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Anchor Bay Entertainment presents
Free Enterprise: Extended Edition (1999)

Claire: Where are you going?
Robert: Looks like I'm going nowhere.
Claire: Don't you f****** quote Star Wars at me!

- Audie England, Rafer Weigel

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: March 05, 2006

Stars: Rafer Weigel, Eric McCormack
Other Stars: Audie England, William Shatner, Patrick Van Horn, Phil LaMarr
Director: Robert Meyer Burnett

MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and language
Run Time: 02h:01m:00s
Release Date: March 07, 2006
UPC: 013131279290
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- BB+B A

DVD Review

Reviewer's note: The 1999 Pioneer release of Free Enterprise was actually the first DVD I wrote about for this website, lo these many years (six) and 500-odd reviews ago. DVD has changed a lot since then, and I suppose I have too. The movie now seems a little dated, and I don't like it as much as I used to, but it's still a lot of fun, and a nice valentine to those of us who sat at the unpopular lunch table in high school but didn't care one bit. Not that I'm talking about myself or anything. In the tradition of the extended "Five Year Mission Edition" of the film (released close to seven years after it first played in theaters), I now present the "special edition" of my original September 2000 review, with enhanced picture and sound and fewer awkward attempts at humor.

Ever met a true geek? You know the type—more likely to remember what day Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn made its theatrical debut than to remember, say, your birthday. Let's face it (I've been forced to) 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 (former writer for Cinescape, current producer of bad movies) and directed by Robert Meyer Burnett, plays as a tribute to the geekiest of those among us, a romantic comedy with a sci-fi twist that still manages to be pretty funny even for people who don't know Captain Kirk from Kirk Cameron.

The plot revolves around two old friends, Robert (Rafer Weigel) and Mark (Eric McCormack, before Will and Grace made him too famous to be in this movie), 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, pre-career resurgence, Emmys, and Golden Globes, 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 is, however, cracked. He explains his idea for the most brilliant film of all time—a hip-hop adaptation of Julius Caesar (with three intermissions!). With the inspiration from their childhood idol, Robert and Mark decide to overcome their immature 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. Robert also has to kick his action figure habit if he wants to have a successful relationship with geekette Claire (Audie England), a comic-book expert and object of nerd lust. The movie works better as a sci-fi comedy than it does as a male take on romance and relationships, but it all works well enough, and maintains a nice energy and sense of humor.

Chances are the only non-Shatner person you have heard of in this film is Eric McCormack (Note: This remains true even six years later... Poor Rafer.), but don't assume there aren't people here worth knowing. Rafer Weigel is pretty charismatic as the loveable slacker, and Audie England is pretty good as Claire, delivering a charming performance in a role that could have come off as shrill and annoying. The supporting cast includes more TV actors, most notably Phil LaMarr, formerly of Mad TV and a voice actor on Futurama (earning him all the sci-fi cred he'll ever need). All of the supporting cast (many of whom worked behind the scenes, too) give good, believable performances, except for maybe Patrick Van Horn as Sean. He plays the "stud" and is fairly irritating, but a lot of that can be attributed to the "clubbing" character.

As a script, Free Enterprise is very clever, and it knows its target audience very well (Mark and Rob, the characters, are actually based on Mark and Rob, the filmmakers). Altman and Burnett have successfully woven equal parts sci-fi trivia, pop-culture comedy, and romance to create a surprisingly touching film. The back of the box oversells it as "Swingers meets Play It Again, Sam," and with the white male perspective and all the womanizing, I'd agree with the former, but it's more likely to impress fans of Kevin Smith than Woody Allen (goodness knows they have the tolerance for stilted direction).

This new DVD includes a slightly longer version of an already lengthy comedy, adding back a big Shatner speech. Some CGI wizardry now enhances the memorable Logan's Run dream sequence as well (renew!). Longer isn't always better, and two hours is a lot to invest in a story this slight, but it's still an enjoyable movie.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Free Enterprise came to DVD early in the life of the format, with a nonanamorphic transfer on a disc stuffed with extras, and the results don't look too pretty these days (I gave it a C+, which in retrospect would be downgraded to a C). This new "Divamax" edition, though, is a vast improvement. Anamorphic enhancement results in better detail and a sharper image overall, and extra breathing room on the disc means the heavy aliasing and artifacting that plagued the old transfer is now absent. The image is still hampered a bit by the low budget, but it's a fine re-master.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 mix sounds largely the same as the old 2.0 mix to my ears. It's the standard comedy mix, with a heavy front soundstage and infrequent use of the surrounds, which fill out the mix with ambient noise and some music. Dialogue comes across pretty well, though it sounds a bit flat at times.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Specials
15 TV Spots/Teasers
12 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Robert Meyer Burnett and writer Mark Altman; Burnett, actors Eric McCormack, Rafer Weigel, and William Shatner
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Cafe Fantastique pilot episode
  2. Screen tests
  3. No Tears for Caesar music video
Extras Review: When I reviewed the first Free Enterprise DVD, I commented that I couldn't imagine there was much left to say about the film. Turns out I was more or less right—aside from a new commentary track and extras unrelated to the film, this new two-disc edition is basically a port of the still impressive 1999 disc.

Technically, I suppose, there are two new commentaries, but the one with director Robert Meyer Burnett and writer Mark Altman may as well be a repeat—though there is some new information here and there, and there are some contemporary references, it contains all of the information, and even many of the same jokes or turns of phrase, as the previous track. It's still a pretty entertaining look at the making of the movie, though, humorous and, thankfully, a little less self-congratulatory this time around. There's also a new track with Burnett and stars Rafer Weigel and Eric McCormack recorded together, and William Shatner edited in. It's less serious, and the actors spend most of their time reminiscing and poking fun at one another, while Shatner offers a more serious take on why he chose to make the movie.

The chief bonus is the making-of documentary, Where No Fan Has Gone Before, which runs just over an hour and was included on the previous DVD but presented here in "special edition" form—ten minutes longer and with 40 minutes of new behind-the-scenes footage subbing in for a lot of talking heads. It isn't much to look at—it was shot on video and rather poorly mastered—but it makes up for it in content, and included are extensive interviews with all the important parties (including Shatner), looks at scenes in progress, and tons of information about the writing and editing processes.

Also back, in slightly truncated form, are screen tests for one male and various female characters (hmmm, wonder why they focused on the hot women's auditions on the DVD), and 12 deleted scenes (all of those from the last disc not added back into the movie already). The deleted scenes menu includes a few obvious hidden features, including a jokey interview with Eric McCormack on the set of Will & Grace. Promotional materials carried over include the No Tears for Caesar music video (which is really just a re-edit of scenes from the end of the film), the trailer, and a TV spot.

Also new to this edition is Cafe Fantastique (23m:35s), the pilot for a sci-fi nerd movie review show Altman shopped around in 2003. The format puts four geeks around a table, arguing about new movies and DVDs (and the Governator). So, it's pretty much like your life, probably. I'd like to say these guys are way nerdy, because they are, but... Anyway, it's pretty entertaining—or would be if I hadn't already been party to approximately 2,300 "The prequel trilogy sucks!" arguments already—even though the movies they are talking about are three years old at this point. I don't know who they expected to buy the show, but it's an interesting curiosity.

Stick the DVD in your computer, PC or Mac (yes, because if anyone appreciates Macs, it's sci-fi geeks), for a few different drafts of the screenplay: one is the original, Shatner rejected-version, in which he plays a Play It Again, Sam hero; the second is the shooting script, including deleted scenes; and the third is a six-page excerpt that replaces Kirk with the hero of the Trek-like "Solar Quest," written when they feared Shatner wouldn't do the movie. There's also a nice booklet with essays by Altman and Burnett and a nerd glossary explaining some of the references (expanded from the one included digitally on the first DVD).

The disc isn't perfect. For one thing, there are no English subtitles. Unfortunately, the subtitle aversion extends to trivia tracks, and the pop-up facts from the previous DVD (which also carried regular English subs) are the one significant extra not ported over. Also missing: text bios of Altman and Burnett (featuring fun facts like favorite movies and Trek episodes), a longer promotional trailer and a 60-second TV spot, and a gallery of publicity photos. Nothing that really warrants keeping the old disc, but I know you wanted to know.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Sci-fi fans know well the horrors of the DVD double-dip, but in the case of Free Enterprise, it's certainly warranted. True, there aren't a lot of new extras, but the extended cut and a much-improved anamorphic transfer are reason enough to donate your old disc to the Home for Underprivileged Fanboys (they need your love as much as they do their thick, thick glasses).

 


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