“An Engaging ‘Enterprise'”
by Scott Mantz
Rafer Weigel, William Shatner
Directed by Robert Meyer Burnett
It is a phrase that has become imbedded in popular culture. Made famous by a skit on a 1986 episode of “Saturday Night Live”, William Shatner told an audience of stereotypical Trekkies to “get a life”. Who could have known the backlash that would follow? Those who were offended by the skit are most likely the people who should have listened (and the film “Trekkies” probably ticked them off, too). Those who found it to be a humorous jibe and got a life are the main focus of Robert Meyer Burnett’s smart, hip, and funny “Free Enterprise”.
The biggest mistake anyone could make is assuming that you have to be a major Trek fan to enjoy the picture. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Although there are numerous references to the classic show, as well as other sci fi nuggets, the main focus is on two friends facing major life decisions. They’re both hovering at 30, and neither is doing what they want to be doing with their careers.
Mark (Erik McCormack) and Robert (Rafer Weigel) are show-biz wannabes passing time in odd jobs. Robert is a part-time editor of B-movies who cares more about his vintage USS Enterprise Christmas ornament than his too-hot girlfriend. Mark is a writer posing as a magazine editor, pitching his latest story concept (“Brady Killer”–no joke!) to anyone who will listen. While perusing a local bookstore, they meet their childhood hero, William Shatner. After some awkward greetings, Bill thinks the boys have studio connections. When he pitches them on a musical version of Julius Caesar for him to star, they realize that their hero is just as screwed up as they are.
Now, I gotta admit, I made a strong connection with this movie! Mark and Robert are single guys living in LA. They are major Kirk fans who are still in touch with their inner child. They just turned 30, and they still haven’t gotten their act together. Well, I am a single guy living in LA. I’m a major Kirk fan, and I’m still in touch with my inner child. I just turned 30, and I still haven’t gotten my act together. Get the picture?
The fact is, writers Burnett and Mark A. Altman have made an excellent film that captures the insecurities of turning 30 and still finding yourself. It seems my generation is spending more time figuring out what it wants, rather than just settling down, raising a family, and working a boring job.
McCormack and Weigel capture their “sci fi geeks with a life” personas dead on, but the real treat here is Shatner. As great as he was as Captain James T. Kirk, he is finally playing a role he was born to play–himself. He’s not afraid to poke fun at his image, and he gives a liberated performance that almost says “I am not Kirk, I am Bill”. Seeing Shatner rap at the end of the film is not only icing on the cake, its worth the price of admission.
If you’re looking for a fix until the next Star Trek feature hits the screen, then see “Trekkies”. If you’re looking for a smart, funny, and hip LA adventure with great characters, then “Free Enterprise” is your ticket. So, set your phasers on “fun”, and get a life.