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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
I am using this week’s Trek Tuesday column to look at something somewhat outside of the Star Trek canon. In 1999, the film Free Enterprise was released. It centers on two life-long Star Trek obsessed friends as they suffer through an early mid-life crisis. Mark (Eric McCormack) is extremely cynical about love and life in general while Robert (Rafer Weigel) floats through life with random hook-ups. Though happenstance, they run into William Shatner (playing a fictionalized version of himself) who randomly pops up in the film to offer inane advice and looking for assistance putting on his one-man show of Shakespeare’s Julius Caeser (done in free-style rap). Problems start to escalate when Robert discovers the woman of his dreams, but has problems trying to focus on developing a serious relationship.
Obviously, this is a comedy. It is also a very strange, little film. While some parts are hilarious, other parts just fall flat and are embarrassing at times. It isn’t bad by any means (and should be required viewing for any Star Trek fan with a sense of humor about themselves).
The thing I really liked about the film is that it portrays Star Trek fans as real people. Sure, they have their quirks and nerdy tendencies, but they are not Sheldon from Big Bang Theory or the common trope of having act as hopeless losers. All the “geeks” in the film are rounded characters who act like normal people with standard acceptable social skills. Granted, some things are heightened for some comedic effect, but it is more along the lines of Brodie from Mallrats than anything else.
Speaking of Mallrats, this film feels like a Kevin Smith film from the early-to-mid ‘90s. It really has the feel about it. In fact, while writing this review, I thought Free Enterprise came out in around the same time. I was surprised to see the 1999 release date. As odd as this might sound, I think that hurts the film a bit, because it comes off as a bit dated for when it was released. I almost wonder if the filmmakers were trying to ape Kevin Smith’s style.
The movie is also horribly paced. There are some stretches that just feel like they go on forever and serve no purpose (for example, a bunch of random extras doing Shatner impressions attempting to pick up women with it). The film is already 113 minutes to begin with. An extended edition clocks over two hours. A film like this doesn’t need to be that long. You really feel its length.
That said, the best part of the film is, not surprisingly, William Shatner. I credit this movie of truly being the start of Shatner’s dive into self-parody which he has built his career on for nearly fifteen years. Granted, he had done comedy before this, but Free Enterprise was the turning point. Everything he does in the film is just completely nutty, but Shatner sells it by having a no nonsense attitude. Shatner’s performance in the flick really makes up for the poor pacing and Kevin Smith-isms.
Check it out. I think it is worth seeing especially if you are a Trek fan.