I am a nerd. A nerd of the kind of variety that would make most people say, “dafuq?” I’m that dork that can tell you that Captain America and the Falcon fight Spider-Man in issue 138 before becoming bros and teaming up to defeat Stone-Face. I watch shows like the Middleman and laugh at all of the jokes because I get every single one of the references. So when I heard that there was a movie that would challenge my nerdiness, I knew I had to check it out!
Free Enterprise was released in 1999, written by Mark Altman & Robert Meyer Burnett, and directed by Burnett. It is a semi-autobiographical, though exceptionally embellished and fantastically fabricated in all the right ways, tale of how Altman and Burnett transitioned from from unfocused and largely failing young adults to responsible and successful thirty-somethings. It all starts when Mark and Robert meet William Shatner in public and over drinks and ideas they become friends. Throughout their journey they learn to live with disappointment, how to cultivate success out of adversity and how to proper balance their love life and their dreams/goals.
The most fantastic element of this movie are the beautiful performances by Eric McCormack and Rafer Weigel as Mark and Robert respectively. The chemistry is evident from the moment they share their first scene. They play off of each other’s dialogue and emotional cues effortlessly, and genuinely seem to be having a blast geeking it up, nuancing the reactions and keeping the witty banter flowing. Also, William Shatner puts in a great performance as a caricature of himself. Shatner chews the hell out of the scenes that he’s in and it’s tremendously entertaining to watch him go nuts. It’s great to watch him play a purely comedic role, and if it helps you make a decision to hunt this DVD down and watch it, William Shatner lays down a funky rap track set to the Shakespeare classic Julius Caesar. It is epic. Also, Mark pitches a slasher movie, Brady Killer, and it is as depraved and genius as you might think it would be. There are s many great moments, where the writing is so creative and tight, that you genuinely wish that the film would not end because you are having too much fun watching it.
What I love about this film is the nerdiness of it all. Characters care about the audio and visual quality of the laserdisc movies that they are purchasing. They collect MEGO action figures, classic Hallmark ornaments, and hardcover graphic novels. These characters are dropping movie, comic, and pop culture references without much concern for whether the audience can keep up with them or not. In other words, it’s a nerd lover’s paradise. I get these characters, because at my core I am one of them. Essentially, if you are a sucker for science fiction, comics, cinema, and collectibles – you will likely love this film. Check this flashback clip from Free Enterprise for a taste of what you have in store for you:
There has been some rumblings that Altman and Meyer might make a sequel to Free Enterprise. I would be delighted to see their take on society and nerd culture 15 years later. More than that, I would love to see McCormack, Weigel and Shatner on screen again, goofin’ around and getting into all sorts of newfangled trouble. Certainly Shatner has a new hairballed scheme that he needs Robert and Mark to help him produce. Put that idea on Kickstarter, and I guarantee that they would have my money.
Ultimately, it’s a buddy movie with a slice of nerdiness, a touch of love, and a strong message about not putting celebrities on too high a pedestal: they are humans too after all and just as prone as the rest of us to make irrational boneheaded decisions and to hatch their own ill advised hair-brained schemes. If you are looking for a nerdy comedy, unlike anything else you’ve ever seen before, then Free Enterprise may be the movie you’ve been looking for. Give it a watch, you’ll be glad you did.