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3.8 out of 5 stars
Freakonomics
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2011
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is my constructive criticism, since I know that Levitt and Dubner read reviews.

I hate to write a mediocre review, but after reading and enjoying both Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, this movie was a little disappointing. It is not that it was bad, just that I had high expectation considering that the books were so good. I was very excited to order this and even show it in my microeconomics class, but after watching it I am not sure if I will use it at all- perhaps a clip or two.

The visual effects, illustrations, and cinematography were very good. I also was glad to seem some interviews from the authors, rather than some other format. However, if you had not already read the book, you might be a little lost on what they were talking about. I am not sure how it could have been done better, since they covered a lot of content and had limited time, but it does not seem like the viewers would walk away and say "Oh, I now have a more clear understanding of XYZ..."

The thing that bothered me most was the subtitles during the Sumo section. In addition to there being quite a bit of Japanese dialog, the subtitles were hard to read because they were all in white. Very distracting when a bright screen came up and you could not read them. I found myself anxious for this section to end so we could go back to English.

I think that the authors should consider a TV series instead of a movie, similar to their podcast now (which is great, BTW). Think Myth-Busters or Stossel's 20/20 programs: They could cover more topics without feeling rushed.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 23, 2010
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
I should not have paid as much as I did to watch this pre-theatrical release. I did so because I thought a documentary based upon the book "Freakonomics" would be very interesting. There were a number of interesting points in the film, but this is just one more case where the reviewer says that the book was much better. The main problem I had with the film is that it presented so little information in the time allotted. I believe this was because it attempted to be entertaining as well as the directors personalizing the content and wasting time by injecting too much of themselves into the content. This lead to a boring documentary where I felt cheated of time and money because so little real content was presented. I suggest reading the book and skipping the movie. If you would rather watch a film than to read a book, then wait til after the film is released in theaters and distributed on DVD. I do not think this film will be able to command a high price for very long after it is distributed on DVD and you should be able to rent or buy it at a discounted price. This book is essentially about looking at common phenomina from different or non-standard points of view. In doing so, there really is no timely earthshaking material so you will not have missed much by waiting for lower prices. I still believe the book or the film contain perspectives that make them worthwhile, but the film barely earns an average rating in my opinion which is generous in this instance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
When last year I saw the poster for this then yet-to-released movie at my local independent movie theatre, I was thrilled and really couldn't wait to see this, since I was such a fan of the book upon which this isbased. Then for whatver reason the movie never came to the theatres here in Cincinnati, so I recently checked out the DVD.

"Freakonomics" (93 min.) tries to bring onto the screen pretty much the same stories that the co-authors brought us in the book. Most of the stories as brought in the movie actually are condensed and gloss over a lot of the details, in particular the data supporting the seemingly unexpected results from the "hidden side of everything". That proves to be a fatal flaw for the movie, even if the movie is not bad as entertainment. The one section that goes further than what is in the book is the Sumo wrestling investigation to explore corruption, and that was foor me the best part of the movie. In all, it's not a bad movie, and certainly compared to the crap of most Hollywood mainstream commercial movies, this is a standout movie.

Every single reviewer of this movie falls into 1 of 2 categories: either as having read the book before seeing the movie, or as not having read the book. I can almost guarantee that very few of us who have read the book, will be entralled with the movie. If you happen to not have read the book or seen the movie yet, I'd suggest you save your money on this DVD and instead head on over to Amazon's Books section and buy Freakconomics and its sequel Superfreakonomics.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2011
Format: DVD
You wouldn't think this would be so important, except they use a lot of direct quotes in various languages and the lousy captioning prevents you from understanding. I finally turned on the Spanish so I could read that instead of the tiny, white, English. The job of explaining what he wrote in the book is nicely done.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2012
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
I read the book and most of the evidence given for each "freakonomic" was not the best evidence given in the book. A few of them, I felt, misrepresented what was in the book.

Plus, the white subtitles, when people were speaking other languages, were often hidden by white or very light backgrounds. I couldn't read half of what was said.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2012
Format: DVD
A thoughtful individual realizes that the claims of politicians and corporations are unworthy of serious consideration. For example, why has the crime rate fallen in the U.S. over the past couple decades? I can remember back when Rudy Giuliani first trumpeted his supposed accomplishments as the major of New York City--the fall in the crime attributable to his approach to policing the city. I assumed that any such shift in behavior is probably due to complex forces beyond our control. The claim of the authors, however, is that the advent of Roe vs. Wade and the availability of abortion on demand allowed women to delay childbearing until they were properly able to take care of their children. As a result, fewer children were born into families that didn't want them, and fewer unwanted children meant fewer people who grew up to become criminals. I would have to, at the very least, read this study in a journal article and crunch the numbers myself before believing this conclusion--but, at least, this is a conjecture that I have not heard before or considered.

Other issues are considered as well: from corruption in sumo wrestling to the tendency for resumes of applicants with archetypal African-American names to be ignored twice as often as those for applicants with typically "white" names. All in all, this movie was interesting, but not compelling. And, as at least on other reviewer has mentioned, the subtitles in the piece on sumo wrestling were too small to be read easily.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2011
Format: DVD
I heard the book was better but I found the documentary somewhat engaging. They talked about incentives, how names that were hot are now for the lower working classes, cheating, why crime has dropped and so forth. The most interesting part to me was about how names that were for the upper classes have since dropped to the lower middle classes and also whether your name can affect your economic life. I had expected more interesting tidbits so what I expected to be excellent turned out to be only somewhat good. WHEN WATCHED: late August 2011; MY GRADE: B minus.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
I read their book before watching the documentary. I loved the book, but I was profoundly disappointed by this movie.

By comparison to Dubner's lucid and punchy (economical) writing in the book, this movie obfuscates the message with a cutesy, lilting attempt to entertain more than explain. In the movie, each section was written by a different person, and there are "precious" graphics which I am guessing were put there to keep the audience interested.

All the accolades attributed to this movie apply more to the original book. Even though I had already read the book, I found their manic dialog confusing and almost unrecognizable - more appropriate to Myth-Busters or the Iron Chef. This is unfortunate, because, now more than ever, in these days of cracker-barrel jingoism and dumbed down "entertainment news", the United States needs Levitt's clear-headed, empirical approach to untangling the causes and effects of complex phenomena that his book and principles expound.

The movie is not bad, but I read the book first. The movie didn't live up to the book.
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on February 1, 2015
Format: Amazon Instant Video
The movie is a simplified, highly diluted version of the book. I would recommend it for young audiences or those who don't mind glossing over the analysis and just want the basic concepts, which are interesting. I know that movies can't go into details like books can, but even as a movie, it fell short of its potential. There was a lot of repetition and they took a long time to explain concepts. However, I can see how this was a good choice if targeting a younger or less informed audience.

I was most bothered by the visuals, most of which added little value. Many of them were plainly irrelevant or distracting, if not borderline offensive. I'm not usually one to cry racism, but the section on baby names packed so many idiotic choices into its depiction of race that I cringed several times. The section on sumo was just as distasteful with its meaningless images vaguely related to Japanese culture, but not to sumo, random Chinese characters that mean nothing, and "sumo scenes" of fat Asians who clearly had not wrestled a day in their lives. But it wasn't just those two sections. Most of the movie felt like a student production or a really low budget TV show. A director using fancy visuals without understanding what he's trying to convey is akin to a writer using big words just to sound impressive. It reminds me of the poetry I wrote as a kid to be "deep" and the presentations I used to make when I first discovered how to make animations in PowerPoint. Too much fluff, not enough substance.

One last gripe: for an analysis that is supposedly based on economic principles, the section on sumo put too much emphasis on religion/culture as an explanatory factor at the expense of really examining the structural incentives of the Sumo Association and other key players like the police and press. The authors espouse rational choice theory everywhere else, yet they argue that the Japanese turn a blind eye to corruption because of sumo's association with purity and Shintoism. This isn't much of an explanation, and it reflects a lot of unsubstantiated assumptions about the role of Shinto in sumo and in Japanese society. Likewise, the guy they bring on to talk about "honne" and "temae" as underlying cultural themes seems like he just read about them in a book once, but he is treated as some sort of expert. Just because something is interesting (read: exotic) doesn't make it relevant! These are weak, pseudo-anthropological explanations that detract from Levitt's superior economic study. In short, I wish they had just used sumo as a case study of cheating instead of using cheating as an excuse to discuss a hodgepodge of ideas about sumo. The director really strayed from the point.
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on November 11, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video
I watched this last night as it was free on prime. I am a fan of documentary film making so I was excited to see this film. I also had not read the book either. Overall, I'd just say it was an ok movie. Most of the concepts are obvious. Sports are fixed? Really? Thats not surprising. Money might make some teenagers get better grades, but other slackers still wont be motivated? Hmm..That blows my mind. Not. Arguing that abortion lowers crime I thought was too simplistic. Black people names segment. Um yeah if you name your child a black person name and they try to get a job then they'll be harder to hire if those people hiring think of blacks as not as smart as whites. I guess I was expecting some more meat to this movie and edgier content. Overall, it was obvious fluff.
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