Free Enterprise [1998]

Genre: Comedy, Romance
This modest but likeable movie is driven by a sincere love of the screenwriters' childhood kitsch, with Star Trek dominant above all--although Logan's Run, the X-Men, Planet of the Apes, and dozens of other science fiction touchstones of the 1970s have been worked in as well. Even an action figurine of almighty Isis, from the Saturday morning TV show, plays a major role in the plot, if plot is the right word. The story follows two guys on the fringe of the movie industry: Robert (Rafer Wiegel) edits movies like Teen Bimbo Beach Assault, while Mark (Eric McCormack from Will and Grace) is writing a screenplay about a serial killer who murders all the characters from The Brady Bunch. The movie touches on their career struggles but spends most of its time with their floundering love lives, suggesting that their pop-culture programming may not be the best model for life. The actors are clearly enjoying themselves, and the writing makes its innumerable pop references with wit, but what really makes the movie work is William Shatner. Shatner plays himself with affectionate but cutting self-mockery, simultaneously lampooning Star Trek obsessiveness and Hollywood egotism in general. Shatner displays not only a more subtle sense of humor than he's ever shown before, but also a surprising vulnerability. He may have alienated a lot of his fans when he did that Saturday Night Live sketch telling them to get a life ("It was just a TV show!"), but his performance in Free Enterprise may just win them back. --Bret Fetzer

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