A compilation of four mini-documentary chapters, respectively directed by Morgan Spurlock, Alex Gibney, Eugene Jarecki, and the duo of Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, Freakonomics is a mixed-bag adaptation of the popular book by Stephen J. Dubner and economist Steven D. Levitt. The charismatic authors supply humorous commentary spiced with personal anecdotes about their data-supported topics.
Jarecki helms the segment, “It’s (Not Always) a Wonderful Life.” Its link of the drop in crime during the early ’90s to the legalization of abortion in 1973 is fascinating. Fewer unwanted children, in other words, means fewer criminals.
Unfortunately, Morgan Spurlock drops the ball with his scattershot installment about the significance of baby names. Titled “A Roshanda by Any Other Name,” his segment looks at how your name helps determine your potential future economic achievement (or lack thereof).
Most gripping is Alex Gibney’s “Pure Corruption,” about cheating as viewed through the scandal-riddled prism of Japanese sumo wrestling. The premise that “a thing worth having is a thing worth cheating for” carries all sorts of ramifications for our corruption-saturated society.
Finally, the Grady/Ewing-directed story “Can a 9th Grader Be Bribed to Succeed” feels forced. The two follow a pair of boys in a Chicago high school where $50 cash incentives are doled out for every grade they make above a “C.”
Director Seth Gordon (King of Kong) edits the film together into a fairly cohesive whole. While not as thoroughly informative or entertaining as it could have been under the control of a single director, Freakonomics is a nonetheless a thought-provoking documentary that leaves you wanting more.
Freakonomics (PG-13) ★★★☆☆