Freakonomics
The lines between Team Edward and Team Jacob are clearly drawn.

Theatrical Release Date: 10/01/2010
Directors: Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Rachel Grady, Eugene Jarecki, Morgan Spurlock

Social economists look to use research studies and statistics to find causality in our lives. The questions they hope to answer are far reaching and diverse. Many read the book, “Freakonomics”, and were exposed to these notions. Now, as the life cycle of popular books seems to include these days, the film adaptation of the source material is available for people to watch.

While the “Freakonomics” film has been on-demand and in the iTunes market for a while now, it’s just beginning to hit theaters nationwide. In keeping with the theme of the book, the documentary is split into sections, each discussing a different subject and under the guidance of a different director. Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Rachel Grady, Eugene Jarecki and Morgan Spurlock all add their spin to the work by the authors – economics professor Steven D. Levitt and journalist Steven J. Dubner.

The topics range from the consequences a particular name may have on your child as they grow up, to corruption within the Sumo world, to whether the Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion led to the crime rate reduction in the 1990s, to whether 9th graders can be bribed to perform better at school. Each supposition is backed by data that Levitt and Dubner included in their book and like any other documentary, it’s up to the audience to critically assess their methods and conclusions to reach one of their own.

While some of the material is controversial (most notably the Roe v. Wade section), each chapter is well laid out and presents interesting ideas and conversation starters. Some are more entertaining than others, as the subjects range in their societal weight, but taken as a whole, I found myself looking to read the book afterwards to find out the other issues that the authors attempt to explore.

This is exactly the type of project that “Fast Food Nation” should have undertaken, as it also presents a series of stories that don’t lend themselves to one narrative but rather are best adapted in vignette fashion. Thankfully, that’s how the filmmakers decided to go here; even adding interstitial segments to tie in the stories and keep the film from feeling fragmented. Entertaining and informative, “Freakonomics” earns a 4 out of 5.