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4.0 2
Director: Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon

Cast: Steven D. Levitt


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Inspired by authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner wildly popular best-seller Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, this documentary teams such acclaimed filmmakers as Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side), and Seth Gordon (


Inspired by authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner wildly popular best-seller Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, this documentary teams such acclaimed filmmakers as Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side), and Seth Gordon (The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters) to look at human behavior from a perspective of incentives and statistics. Conventional wisdom gets caught in the crosshairs when Jesus Camp co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady explore how underachieving kids respond when they're rewarded for hard work with greenbacks; Gibney throws open the curtain on sumo wrestling; Spurlock examines how baby names can affect a child's development; and Why We Fight director Eugene Jarecki offers a troubling hypothesis on why the early-'90s saw some of the lowest crime rates of the latter 20th century.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
First published in 2005 to overwhelming international popularity and a fair amount of controversy, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's nonfiction tome Freakonomics sought to upend conventional thinking patterns when dissecting various societal phenomena. For example, Levitt and Dubner drew on long-term statistics to suggest that the legalization of abortions may ultimately prevent violent crime, that the risks of children being killed by accidental gunshots are far less than the risks of their drowning in swimming pools, and that parents' decisions to enrich their children with prenatal exposure to Mozart and trips to museums may have little to no effect on the kids' long-term adjustment. The intent (as the two have boldly proclaimed many times since) wasn't to advance a particular political or social agenda, but conversely, to look beyond the veneer of polemics, analyze the truths and fallacies beneath, and achieve more accurate readings. Whatever counterarguments one might be able to drum up against the work's bolder case studies, it remains a gutsy and fascinating piece of research. The documentary Freakonomics embodies a loose cinematization of the Levitt-Dubner volume, done as an omnibus film; the producers drew on the skills and visions of a handful of celebrated nonfiction directors to each helm one segment adapted from the Levitt-Dubner work. Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) tackles a piece on the long-term ramifications of unusual first names versus more conventional names, especially as filtered through the lens of race ("A Roshanda by Any Other Name"); Alex Gibney (Casino Jack and the United States of Money) likens the rampant cheating in sumo wrestling to that of U.S. economic trading ("Pure Corruption"); Eugene Jarecki (The Trials of Henry Kissinger) traces Roe v. Wade to a substantial drop in the numbers of felonies witnessed 15-20 years later, when the aborted babies of unwanted pregnancies would have come of age ("It's Not Always a Wonderful Life"); and the team of Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp) visit a Chicago high school that attempts to improve the grades of underachieving students by providing a 50-dollar reward for each report card that exhibits all passing marks ("Can a Ninth Grader Be Bribed to Succeed?"). Bridging these segments are animation- and interview-laced segues by Seth Gordon, who also created the doc's prologue and epilogue. The film's structural approach feels unusual but apt given the episodic nature of the source material, and to the movie's credit, the installments lack the qualitative extremities that one typically associates with an omnibus film structure. To be sure, there are admittedly scattered weaknesses -- the Spurlock and Jarecki pieces overdo it on cutesy-pie animations, the Ewing-Grady contribution sets up a fascinating situation and explores it as dexterously as their prior documentaries but has a slightly weak wrap-up -- however, these are minor lapses. At no point over the course of the film do we sink into a mire of confusion or, for that matter, boredom; the motion picture consistently generates the same level of fascination that readers drew from the Levitt-Dubner volume, while sustaining a line of reasoning throughout that continually reinforces the book's philosophies and makes the film feel homogeneous and unified. What the documentary lacks may be an inevitable casualty of compressing an entire system of thought into a 90-minute form -- it never manages to plumb the depth that one associates with a 350-page text. In fact, it leaves one with the inescapable impression that Freakonomics would work far better as a documentary television series. At the very least, the documentary preserves Levitt and Dubner's finest achievement: simply encouraging readers to think outside of the box when examining sociological situations, by reevaluating commonly held assumptions. This is uniformly true of all the episodes, and a fundamental strength that shouldn't be underestimated.

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Special Features

Additional Interviews with Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner; ; Producers' Commentary with Chris Romano, Dan O'Meara and Chad Troutwine; ; Directors' Commentary; HDNet: A Look at Freakonomics

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Steven D. Levitt Participant
Stephen J. Dubner Participant

Technical Credits
Heidi Ewing Director,Screenwriter
Alex Gibney Director,Screenwriter
Seth Gordon Director,Executive Producer,Screenwriter
Rachel Grady Director,Screenwriter
Eugene Jarecki Director,Screenwriter
Morgan Spurlock Director,Screenwriter
Doug Blush Editor
Paul Brill Score Composer
Peter Bull Screenwriter
Hilary Carr Co-producer
Peter Cerbin Co-producer
Rafi Chaudry Co-producer
Jeremy Chilnick Screenwriter
Paul Fiore Executive Producer
Michael Furjanic Score Composer
Tova Goodman Editor
Tony Hardmon Cinematographer
Sloane Klevin Editor
Darren Lew Cinematographer
Damon Martin Executive Producer
Daniel O'Meara Producer
Jay Rifkin Executive Producer
Michael Roban Executive Producer
Chris Romano Producer
Nelson Ryland Editor
Michael Taylor Editor
Chad Troutwine Producer
Rob VanAlkemade Cinematographer
Michael Wandmacher Score Composer


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Freakonomics 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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