|Directed by||Robert Meyer Burnett|
|Produced by||Mark A. Altman|
|Written by||Robert Meyer Burnett|
Mark A. Altman
|Music by||Scott Spock|
|Cinematography||Charles L. Barbee|
|Edited by||Robert Meyer Burnett|
|Distributed by||Anchor Bay Entertainment|
121 minutes (Extended)
The film deals with the mid-life crises of its two main protagonists, Mark (Eric McCormack) and Robert (Rafer Weigel), fictionalized versions of the film's director and producer/writer. The two friends struggle with adult career and relationship problems, all the while defiantly clinging to the geeky science fiction pop culture of their youth and seeking advice from their greatest hero, William Shatner.
Shatner plays a campy caricature of himself as he works on a one-man musical version of Julius Caesar in hopes of finally being taken seriously as a dramatist and musical performer. Hip-hop artist "The Rated R", joined by Shatner, provides the concluding musical number "No Tears for Caesar", a pastiche of famous lines from the play set to a rap rhythm. The film's score was produced by Scott Spock.
Kay Reindl, a friend of Mark A. Altman and Robert Meyer Burnett, and a television writer on Millennium and The Twilight Zone, felt that they could make a film out of their clique's obsession with Star Trek. Burnett remembered that one day Altman called him and read a scene where he was beaten up in junior high school for wearing a Trek uniform. William Shatner appeared to him as a vision and told him to fight back. Altman wrote the first draft and then Burnett rewrote it.
When Altman and Burnett approached Shatner about being in Free Enterprise he was not interested: "I had played my [Kirk] persona as far as I wanted to go and probably as far as anybody wants me to go." Undaunted, Altman and Burnett tweaked his character to be more like Peter O'Toole's in My Favorite Year. They also incorporated several anecdotes from Shatner's actual life.
Free Enterprise had a tiny theatrical release in only nine Los Angeles theaters in 1998 with little promotion. Burnett said, "Nobody went to see it. It was really disheartening". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas said that the film brought "new life into the Hollywood-set romantic comedy genre" and was "funny, sharp and engaging". The L.A. Weekly said it was a "very funny, likable comedy about geeks in love". In her review for the Washington Post, Jen Chaney praised Shatner's performance: "The often funny and, strangely enough, sometimes touching performance by Shatner."
The film won four awards including the 2000 Saturn Award for Best Home Video Release. A new 2-disc DVD special edition Free Enterprise: Extended "Five Year Mission" Edition was released on March 7, 2006.
The film is laced with references to past and contemporary science-fiction films and television shows, such as Star Wars and Logan's Run. Most prominent is the original Star Trek, which is treated by the protagonists as a source of inspiration and moral guidance. Free Enterprise explores the dating scene for late Gen-X Hollywood singles from a decidedly sardonic perspective. The credits are laced with references and spoilers.
A sequel called Free Enterprise: The Wrath of Shatner is in pre-production. Interviewed at Comic-Con 2011, director Robert Meyer Burnett admitted that earlier in the year, funding for the sequel was pulled two days before filming, but says that the project is not dead.
Ludovico Technique LLC was an art and entertainment production company which produces a variety of media, from feature films, to comic books. Their name comes from the Ludovico technique, a fictitious brainwashing technique from both the novel and the film A Clockwork Orange.
Robert Meyer Burnett, CEO of Ludovico Technique, both co-wrote and directed the feature film
Free Enterprise (film), which won both the "Best Screenplay" award and the "New Directions" award at the American Film Institute's 1998 AFI Fest.