Free Enterprise (1998)

free enterprise

“A musical version of Julius Ceasar… the worst idea I’ve heard since New Coke.”

The Scoop: 1998 R, directed by Robert Meyer Burnett and starring Rafer Weigel, Eric McCormack and William Shatner

Tagline: Only one man in the Universe can get them on the right Trek…

Summary Capsule: Trekkies grow up, love a little, and never let go of the legend

Justin’s rating: Can I make some sort of joke with Shatner’s pauses and pausing the VCR? Yes, but I won’t.

Justin’s review: Back in the college days, we thought of ourselves as the next generation of nerds. The new generation, proud of our pop culture references and living with one foot in the boring world and one in worlds created by filmmakers, comic book writers, and scifi writers everywhere. We may be harder to recognize; we don’t wear Star Trek uniforms around town, we’ve moved from conventions to the internet, we’re you, incognito, only recognizable by cryptic phrases and cool toys.

And this may be our film.

Free Enterprise follows two fanboys, Mark and Robert, 30-something movie business guys who have not outgrown the their pop culture fixation — particularly that of Star Trek and Star Wars. They throw movie quotes into every conversation they have up to the point of having this secret vocabulary that only their close friends can interpret. Sound familiar?

One day, these two guys bump into Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, who turns out to be a complete loon. But a lovable loon. From then on, these three try to deal with their lives and loves while not giving up their love for collecting toys, building up graphic novel collections, and creating the ultimate home theater.

This is an incredible movie. Just. Incredible. To say my expectations were low going into seeing this is a misnomer. I typically look back on my Trekkie years with shame, yet I’m still a movie geek and a scifi aficianado. Who needs to have that mocked? Yet Free Enterprise celebrates fandom and gives some of the best arguments for all of us fanboys (and girls) in our various forms.

Plus, and this is what truly won me over, there are more great lines in this movie than any in recent memory. What makes it even better is that most of these lines (and conversations) are blatantly ripped off from modern pop movies and shows. When Claire makes up with Robert, she goes into a pseudo-When Harry Met Sally speech; Mark gives one of the best Captain Kirk monologues I’ve ever heard; Robert takes time out to critique Scream. And when Claire said to Robert, “Where are you going?” and he replies, “I guess I’m going nowhere,” I nearly cried.

This is truly a movie for those in the know. A Clerks for the scifi core. Only masters of cinema could possibly get every single joke that lays in wait, yet the sheer bombardment means even the less educated will still find this pretty funny. I can’t believe William Shatner would make this much fun of himself, but he treats himself like the movie treats sci-fi obsession: respectful, but tongue-in-cheek.

In fact, I’m going to use Captain’s Discretion and grant Free Enterprise a brand new award that I’ve just created: the “Leapt Up And Bit Me On The Tuckus” award for a movie that I heard practically nothing about in advance, but was so stellar that it instantly became a favorite of mine. Captain out.

Kyle’s rating: I hope I die before I get old OR 4 out of 4 past Shatner hairpieces

Kyle’s review: Perhaps because I occasionally feel melancholy about the days of my life uncontrollably passing me by, and I happened to watch the excellent film Free Enterprise during such a glorious self-pity-fest, the aspect of this movie that really spoke to me was the Logan’s Run-inspired subplot, where Mark (Eric McCormack) is getting dangerously close to his 30th birthday (his Last Day) and wondering all about life. Mark and his best friend Robert (Rafer Weigel) are also gigantic pop culture freaks specializing in the sci-fi realms of knowledge, especially Star Trek, so there’s another personal parallel to me! Whoa, where’s my share of the profits?

Sorry about that. We are introduced to Mark and Robert in their early youth, where we see how Captain Kirk (William Shatner, of course, who my friend [not me, mind you] strongly believes is God) has been a guiding and helpful force in their lives from the get-go. Switching to the present, it becomes pretty clear that Mark and Robert have matured only in the physical sense. Mark, who is pretty successful, and Robert, who blows his rent money on mint-on-card Mego Star Trek figures, live a good life, cruising Los Angeles toy stores at lunch for new action figures and spending every conversation dissecting the minutiae of comic books, television shows, and films they love, even briefly covering Annie Hall (which really is a great movie!).

Anyway, one night after dinner Mark and Robert are checking out some books in a quaint LA bookstore when they suddenly spy none other than William Shatner himself checking out some porn in the magazine section. It’s the great dilemma faced by those of us lucky enough to live in California where the celebrities are: when you see your childhood hero just feet away from you in the flesh, do you leave them alone so your image of them remains untarnished, or do you rush up and proclaim that unlike every other person who has ever approached them, you are “normal” and hey wouldn’t the two of you make a perfect couple?

Wouldn’t be much of a movie if our duo just walked away, eh? Yes, that’s right, Mark and Robert run up to Shatner (the urge to just call him Jim while writing this is incredible!) and, well, kinda make asses of themselves. But they offer to pay for drinks, and that’s all Shatner needs to hear to join them for some Romulan ale. What happens over their drinks, and the Shatner and love shenanigans that follow, is what makes Free Enterprise so darn great.

I’m not going to ruin anything for you, but here are some highlights: boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy pines for girl to return, other boy finds there is no sanctuary from turning 30, hardcover Sandman graphic novels are bought and sold, and there are a surprising amount of sexual escapades for these guys being Star Trek fans. Sorry, the stereotypes are mostly true in real life, dudes.

Will Mark not only survive meeting William Shatner and finding out he’s not exactly Captain James Tiberius Kirk? Will he also survive the looming specter of his 30th birthday? Will Robert finally find that one special girl who will love him for him and for his Japanese laserdisc set of all the Planet of the Apes movies? Find out by boldly going out to your video store and renting the fantastic Free Enterprise, because while there isn’t nearly enough Shatner in this as there should be, you do get the ultimate Shatner-rapping-to-Shakespeare scene, and won’t you feel really bad if you deprive yourself of seeing that? P.S. – everything Justin said is very much true, and I believe I’m the one who planted the seed in his mind to see this film. Yet do I ask for (or receive) some special award? I think not. No, I only ask for the chance to see more movies! Thanks, Justin!

PoolMan’s rating: Why have I never HEARD of this before?

PoolMan’s review: I’ve noticed that when something wins Justin’s “Leapt Up and Bit Me on the Tuckus” Award, it usually sets its sights on my buns next, and never does it disappoint. I have never heard of Free Enterprise outside of the hallowed halls of the Mutant Reviewers, and I can’t figure out why. It was just so great!

What a riot! Plot rehashing has been served by my colleagues already, so I won’t bother. What I love about this movie is that it’s a great conversation piece. It’s something like Clerks. It’s a lot like Swingers (without all the “babys” and “moneys,” thank God). This flick just goes from conversation to conversation like Tarzan going vine to vine, and it’s great, great fun, if you can catch the little jokes. And there are a lot of them. It’s recommended you watch every sci fi movie ever made before you even attempt Free Enterprise. Nah, you’ll live without, but some of the best laughs did come from knowing the source material of all the quotes. (“Stay on target…”)

Another highly enjoyable aspect is the fact that it turns out to be a feel good movie, but it does it in a way that doesn’t cover you in sugar. When you finally hear Bill’s reasons for wanting to do a musical version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (playing all the parts by himself, except for Sharon Stone as his love interest), it finally makes sense, and brings a sense of meaning to Bill’s existence. He’s not the loon they first thought him to be. Every character is driven by a dream of success. Sure, the dreams differ and the motivations get strange, but each person has something they want and knows what they’re willing to do to get there. And in the end, all the objectives are met (like a successful planet mission, without the red shirted ensigns!).

There’s a couple of iffy moments for me. For one, my eyebrows attempted to jump off my face when Robert has a threesome with his drinking buddy and some girl (who makes great omelettes, I hear). I have some guy friends I like to have a beer with, sure, but I’m not about to call them up and share women! But that’s just me… And when you’re finally treated to a glimpse of Shatner’s Caesar Rap, I felt a little something inside me die. That was just painful. I thought the Priceline ads were embarrassing! But the scene played over the end credits helped make up for it.

Again, I can’t believe I never heard about Free Enterprise. It’s a laugh and a half from start to finish, and deserves a lot of praise. It’s destined to be as big a cult movie as the material it steals all its juicy bits from!

Beware... The Ides..... of March.
Beware… The Ides….. of March.


  • Credits happiness: an extra scene with the dumb intern, and a lot of weird credits to boot
  • Can you identify all of the action figures in Robert’s apartment? Among them are the alien from ID4, Flash Gordon, Superman, Captain Kirk
  • Claire’s phone number is 555-1701 (if those last four digits mean nothing to you, this movie might be a tad confusing)
  • Robert and Claire read Stephen King’s The Stand in the tub – one of my favorite books!
  • One of the editing geeks has a “Re-Animator” shirt on
  • Robert and Bill drink green drinks together. This would seem to harken back to the “What is it?”/”It is green” lines of Scotty and Data in TOS and TNG.

Groovy Quotes:

Robert: I could say the exact same thing about women and their obsession with shoes.
Lela: That’s a sexist comment!
Robert: Is it. How many pairs of shoes do you have in your closet?
Lela: I don’t know… maybe… um…
Robert: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that. What was that?
Lela: 53.

Lela: You` can wear shoes, they’re practical.
Robert: Can you wear 53 pairs?

Mark: Mom, you don’t understand! If we don’t go now, we’ll miss the opening of the motion picture! This can’t happen, Mom! Please… you’re my only hope!

Mark: It was a bad call, Ripley, a bad call!

Robert: She’s a hot little spicy salsa num-ber!

Mark: A musical version of Julius Ceasar… the worst idea I’ve heard since New Coke.

Mark: I don’t have a problem. You, on the other hand, are an insufferable spoiled brat who can only talk about herself. I mean, the biggest joke is that you have more problems than anyone I know and yet you want to become a therapist. What are you going to do, counsel people to kill themselves? Because that’s what I feel like doing after listening to you whine for an hour.

Lela: Looks like a really rich fourth grader lives here.

Mark: Why am I here?
Robert: Isn’t that too deeply philosophical for 4 o’clock in the morning?

Robert: Is she my Trixie?

Young Robert: He said that Han Solo was cooler than Captain Kirk.
Imaginary William Shatner: Kick the little f***er’s ass.

Eric: Great party Robert. Where are all your friends of colour?

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