Free EnterpriseBy Dennis Sabre
Posted at June 8, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT
A Mindfire Entertainment Production
Produced by Dan Bates, Mark A. Altman & Allan Kaufman
Written by Mark A. Altman & Robert Meyer Burnett
Directed by Robert Meyer Burnett
Eric McCormack as "Mark"
Rafer Weigel as "Robert"
William Shatner as "Bill"
Reviewed by Dennis Sabre
Be careful what you wish for! Mark and Robert, two long-time Star Trek fans, have suffered most of their lives for their love of their favorite television program. Back in school, their classmates beat them up for their devotion to the fictional Captain Kirk and the actor who played him. Now, approaching their dreaded thirtieth birthdays, the two wannabe filmmakers (and devoted collectors of action figures) still don't fit in. Neither can maintain a relationship with a girlfriend. Could it have something to do with the fact that nearly everything they say contains some reference to "Star Trek" or other science-fiction classics? Certainly not! Still, when Mark and Robert chance to meet actor William Shatner in a Los Angeles bookstore, they're in for a rude awakening. To their horror, they find their idol is a womanizing egomaniac whose dream is to play all the parts in a one-man musical production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." (All the parts, except that he wants Sharon Stone to play Calpurnia. Or if Sharon isn't available, then maybe Heather Locklear.)
"Free Enterprise" is a low-budget, independently-produced romantic comedy, written by science-fiction film columnist Mark Altman and film editor Robert Meyer Burnett (who also directed), both of whom fiercely deny that the film is in any way autobiographical. Their love of Star Trek and science fiction film is evident in every scene of this quirky, sometimes bizarre tale, which seems to have been made without any cooperation (or interference) from Paramount Studios. William Shatner shows himself to be a heretofore unsuspected comic genius who takes delight in poking fun at his public image. And his rap music version of Marc Antony's "Et tu, Brute" speech had me laughing so hard that I'll have to watch the movie again just to see if I missed anything.
Although "mainstream" viewers will certainly enjoy the film's comedic plot, hardcore science fiction fans will take special delight in "Free Enterprise"'s many subtle (and not-so-subtle) in-jokes. My personal favorite was Shatner's botched pick-up line, delivered to a beautiful woman, a classic Kirk speech from "Conscience of the King." (Oddly enough, it didn't work anywhere near as well for Shatner as it did for Kirk.) On the other hand, I didn't notice (until a friend pointed out to me) that all the drinks in a bar were green, which seems to be a clever reference to Scotty's immortal "it's green" line. Other gags include references to such fan favorites as "Logan's Run," "Star Wars," "Planet of the Apes," "Wonder Woman," and even "Buckaroo Banzai." Even the end titles are full of tiny jokes buried in the credits.
Unlike a recent "documentary" that tries to portray Star Trek fans as freaks, "Free Enterprise" is surprisingly well-done, and made with obvious affection for Star Trek fans, as well as for Star Trek itself. If you like Star Trek, and if you're tired of being painted as someone who needs to "get a life," you'll love "Free Enterprise."
"Free Enterprise" is in limited release in Los Angeles, although the production company's website says it will soon be released in other cities. If you're lucky enough to live in a city where it's being shown, treat yourself (and a friend) to the funniest movie ever made for science fiction fans, by science fiction fans.
Dennis Sabre is a new contributor to the Trek Nation.