Movies You May Have Missed: Free Enterprise

Take one part Swingers, two parts Clerks, add a plethora of sci-fi references and you have 1998’s Free Enterprise, a funny, witty comedy starring Eric McCormick, Rafer Weigel and William Shatner.
Free Enterprise is the story of best friends Mark (played by McCormick) and Robert (played by Weigel) who are struggling to break into the movie business. Life gets interesting when they run into William Shatner, a man they’ve idolized since they were kids. As they get to know Shatner (thus, debunking their myth of the man) they realize they need to grow up. Things further escalate when Robert meets Claire, a beautiful comic book loving geek who takes up all of Robert’s time, putting his friendship with Mark and their movie career hopes in jeopardy.

This movie came at a time when genre fiction as we know it was just starting to pick up. The Matrix, the Star Wars prequels, and the comic book movie adaptations were not yet released and the Star Trek franchise was starting to age. Since most of the characters in Free Enterprise were approaching 30, many of the sci-fi references pertain to Star Trek: The Original Series, and other sci-fi movies of the ’70s and ’80s. The inclusion of so many references adds to the humor of the story without the cliche ‘loser sci-fi fan’ element, even if they are a little dated.

All of the performances were excellent, but I have to call attention to William Shatner. It’s easy to conclude that he plays a ‘parody’ of himself, but the tone of the film doesn’t lend to that conclusion. In Free Enterprise Shatner is just a person. And like everyone else in the story, he has his own short-comings to deal with. His comedic timing combined with the serious moments makes for a well-rounded performance.

Overall, Free Enterprise is a great movie to sit back and relax to. It may not be as well known as other comedies of the late ’90s, but it holds its own with a solid, uncomplicated story.

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