Opening this Friday, October 1: FREAKONOMICS
Producers Chad Troutwine, Chris Romano, and Dan O’Meara assembled a veritable dream team of documentary directing all-stars to tackle their film adaptation of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s bestselling book. The film premiered at Tribeca earlier this year and is being released by Magnolia this weekend, hoping to capitalize not only on the six directors’ followers, but on the rabid fanbase of the popular book, which combines pop culture with an incentives-focused view of economics.
Adapting notable examples from the source material, each director (or director team in the case of Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing) taking on a different chapter of the film. Like most omnibus projects, some segments are stronger than others. Eugene Jarecki’s exploration of the possible explanation for the unexpected drop in the crime rate in the 1990s, narrated by Melvin Van Peebles, is arguably the strongest. Grady & Ewing also deliver an entertaining, if light, look into a scheme to pay ninth graders to improve their grades. A light approach is also taken by Morgan Spurlock in his satirical musing on the impact of baby names, which, while well done, doesn’t go too far below the surface. The opposite extreme is found in Alex Gibney’s investigative journalism-like report on sumo wrestling corruption – much like its subjects, the segment is far too weighty compared to the rest of the film, and drags it down. Seth Gordon connects these episodes together with clever interstitials featuring Levitt and Dubner, perhaps the second best aspect of the project after Jarecki. While it be a mixed bag, the film is worthwhile for its basic concept – applying out-of-the-box economic approaches to make sense of human behavior.