Free Enterprise: Five Year Mission Extended Edition
Directed by Robert Meyer Burnett
Cast: Eric McCormack, Rafer Weigel, Audie England, William Shatner
Back when I was a kid growing up in Colorado, my favorite time of year was winter. You see, unlike Albuquerque, winter in Pueblo always meant snow--assloads of it. Every morning, my mom would bundle me up in multiple layers of clothing and I would trek across the frozen tundra of my neighborhood to the park, where vast stretches of pristine, untouched powder lay before me. As humongous flakes fell from the sky, blurring my vision, I would stagger around for awhile and finally collapse in a heap, dragging myself forward and muttering, “Ben. ... Ben. ... Dagobah.” And wouldn't you know it, Obi Wan himself would appear to me and impart his Jedi wisdom, saying, “Get your ass home, drink some hot chocolate and watch cartoons, boy; it's freezing out here!”
For better or worse, this was the story of my young life--and after watching Free Enterprise, I feel comforted with the knowledge that I'm not alone in the universe.
Free Enterprise opens by introducing us to young versions of our main characters, Mark and Robert, through some funny flashback sequences. In them, a 12-year-old Mark attempts to get into a screening of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but is thwarted by the ticket lady who informs him that he's not old enough to get into the movies after 4 p.m. Dejected but not defeated, Mark ponders what Captain Kirk would do in a situation like this--only to have William Shatner (played by himself) appear to him in a vision and offer his advise. (Shatner also reveals to Mark that he is “one of the top 10 imaginary friends kids have.”) Meanwhile, young Robert (sporting a Starfleet uniform, no less) is getting his ass kicked by a schoolyard bully who informs him that Han Solo is cooler than Captain Kirk. Once again, Shatner himself appears to offer a pearl of wisdom to the young lad. In this particular case it's to “kick the little fucker's ass.” Pretty funny stuff, but I have to agree with the bully on this one.
We flash forward several years into the “near present,” where we find Mark (played by a pre-“Will & Grace” Eric McCormack) working at the appropriately named GEeK Magazine and Robert (Rafer Weigel) editing films for a low-budget production company. The two friends share a mutual obsession for science fiction and pop culture, but Mark has grown into a responsible adult, while Robert would rather purchase toys and laserdiscs than pay his rent. This has resulted in a string of failed relationships for Robert, with Mark constantly bailing Robert out financially.
Things take a turn for the surreal when the guys meet William Shatner (again playing himself) at a used bookstore as he is perusing porno magazines. At first, they fall over themselves in hero-worship and eventually convince Shatner to let them buy him drinks. Unfortunately, the hero-worship is short-lived when the unthinkable happens: They find out Bill is twice the introverted loser they are. It turns out Bill is a bumbling moron when it comes to the ladies and spends all his free time trying to launch his next project--a six-hour long musical version of Julius Caesar with Shatner playing all the parts.
Distraught over the fact that their childhood idol is a complete loon, Robert and Mark take on the role that Shatner had once played in their young imagination--they become his mentors. Then things start to look up for Robert when he meets a hot mama named Claire (Audie England) at a comic book store. Claire is the ultimate geek fantasy--a hot girl who is obsessed with the same nonsense as he is. But will Claire, like all other women in Robert's life, get fed up with his inability to get his priorities straight? Will Mark be hunted down like a dog on his 30th birthday? Will Bill learn to talk to women without looking like a complete ass? Well, you gotta watch the movie to find these things out for yourself.
While Free Enterprise is obviously tailor-made for geeks in general, the non-geek populace can enjoy it as well. After all, the film resonates with themes we can all relate to: friendship, heartbreak and the quest for happiness. Like all Anchor Bay releases, the DVD package is impressive, featuring a widescreen presentation of the film with two audio tracks. The second disc has a “making of” featurette, deleted scenes, trailers, the original screenplay and music video. This is a rarely seen gem of a film, and is definitely worth your time. Many Bothans died to bring you this DVD review. (Anchor Bay)