Documentary Review: Freakonomics will freak you out


In 2005 Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner wrote and published a book called Freakonomics.  The book looked at how things like causality and incentive based decision making effect everything and everyone universally.  The book discussed everything from cheating in schools to whether or not legalizing abortion can lower the crime rate.  The book went to reach number two on the New York Times Bestseller list and has sold over nine million copies worldwide.

Then in 2010 Chad Trautwine, Chris Romano, and Dan O’Meara got together and produced a documentary film version of the book.  In stead of giving one documentary film maker the daunting task of discussing and documenting all the topics in the book they decided to divide and conquer.  So they called up six of the best documentary film directors working today. Seth Gordon(King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters), Morgan Spurlock(Supersize Me), Alex Gibney(Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), Eugene Jarecki(Why We Fight), and Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing(Jesus Camp)  all take a single segment study it.

When the film is presented together in a chapter like format it comes out surprisingly well.  The authors, Levitt and Dubner, provide candid interviews and insight into each topic that is studied.  While some segments are longer than others each one provides a memorable look at a hidden world.  Two main segments that stand out from the others are Morgan Spurlock’s segment that tries and find out if and how a childs name will effect their lives and why there is such a racial disparity between the names of white and black children and Eugene Jarecki’s segment on the relationship between the legalization of abortion and its effect on the crime rate.

While the individual viewer may not agree with some of the touchier subjects it is impossible to claim that each segment is not interesting.  Moreover, some of the segments offer reasons and causes that make so much sense that it is shocking and scary that these connections had never been made before.  The film is a perfect gateway for those who have never watched a documentary before as it is accessible and extremely watchable.  It is also a must for those who are no stranger to the documentary scene or those who have seen some of the directors’ previous works.  After watching Freakonomics not only will the viewer look at the world differently but hopefully they will begin to look for hidden causality and reasoning in everyday life.  Freakonomics will release in theaters October first but it is available on Comcast OnDemand for home viewing.



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