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Review: Freakonomics

by Dave Elliott


What is Freakonomics? Well, it’s basically the idea of taking economic theory and applying it to non-economic-type things… Such as corruption in sumo wrestling, or the social impact of baby naming.

In Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt – ‘Rogue Economist’, and Stephen J. Dubner –  ‘writer/journalist’ take the ideas from their best selling book of the same, and hand the chapters over to a variety of documentary film-makers to make short films. In terms of structure, it’s almost like was conceived as a tv series, with a director taking an episode each and Levitt and Dubner then doing a 5 min interview to each show, introducing the concept of this weeks topic. It is a slightly odd format, but given their isn’t any a direct connection between one idea and the next (other than the use of economics), the switch in styles for each topic works perfectly well.

The opening short from Super Size Me‘s Morgan Spurlock takes an entertaining look at whether the name you choose for your child has an affect on their social standing, followed by Alex Gibney’s (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) tale about corruption in Sumo. To me though, the most interesting segment was Eugene Jarecki’s (Why We Fight) take on why the US crime rate dropped in the 90’s, which comes to a really rather surprising conclusion. Grady and Heidi Ewing’s (Jesus Camp) final section on whether it’s possible to bribe a 9th grader (that’s 14 to 15 yr olds to us Britishers) to learn, was also quite fasinating.

Freakonomics is an interesting documentary and well worth watching, although i can’t help but feel the subject matter might have been better served as a TV show, allowing a bit more time on each subject.

7/10 – Freaking interesting, if a bit rushed.

Watch or rent Freakonomics online with LOVEFiLM

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