Customer Reviews: Freakonomics
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on January 27, 2011
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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VINE VOICEon September 22, 2010
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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on January 17, 2011
Occasionally a movie comes along, based on a book, that inspires people to run out and pick up a copy and actually read. It doesn't happen often and in today's world where more people are in tune with a visual experience as opposed to a reading one, when it does happen it's wonderful. Such is the case with FREAKONOMICS.

Based on the best seller of the same name, the book was written by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner. It focused on Levitt's research into the causality of numerous topics as explained via economics and tabulated information. The interesting thing, as he states, is that in seeking reasons for various topics people think things are connected to something else but it turns out not being the case. Trust me, its less complicated than you think and easier to understand than you would expect but more so after watching this film.

To make a movie out of the book, they chose 4 different notable documentary directors and went to work. Each one has their own look and feel, but all incorporate into the general picture at hand. The first is one of the most well known, Morgan Spurlock who did SUPER SIZE ME. Here he takes on the question of what is in a name.

The question here is is a person judged and their life set up early on by what their parents name them? Beginning with the example of a young girl named after Tempest Bledsoe of COSBY fame whose mother couldn't spell resulting in the name Temptress, we find that it wasn't her name so much as her environment that formed her life. But there's more to it than that. The choice of names and how they affect everything from your job acceptance to your place in society is discussed with results different than one might expect.

But back to the original premise of the film, where one would think that a person's name might be the reason for the life that the end up with, the truth is that it is more their surroundings. Thus the expectations of people are proved wrong when the facts are sought out.

A section on cheating focuses on sumo wrestlers in Japan. Sure, you might not be interested in two big men in diapers fighting one another, but that's not the point. The discussion forms around sumo being a traditional sport surrounded in religion and honor that was corrupted. So much so that the results of matches could be predicted. What brought about this change from honor to corruptibility?

One segment deals with incentives and what we expect once more versus the outcome. Here, a group of students are given the incentive to do well in school by being promised $50 each time their grade cards come out if they show improvement and a few other items like attendance. Those that do well qualify for a $500 check at year's end as well as a stretch limo ride. Does this incentive help increase school activity? Watch and see.

The fourth section discusses the reported drop in crime rates during the 80s. Politicians spoke endlessly about how they had achieved this, citing the increase in policemen on the streets as the biggest reason. In researching the date, Levitt and crew discovered that police were only a small portion of the reason crime decreased. The main reason, nearly 49% worth, was...well again, watch and see.

The movie is well made and follows an interesting path. It starts out simple, discussing selling your home and real estate agents (trust me it's interesting) just to set up the film's/book's idea and then presenting the different theories focused on in an intelligent and still entertaining way.

Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it will make you look at the world from a different standpoint. You won't tend to accept things at face value and will look deeper into why things happen. You might even choose to pick up a copy of the book and see how they applied themselves to discover the real answers to some different questions.

All in all, the film is a treat, making it enjoyable as well as informative. That's a rare combination to find in films these days. Rare still is the fact that you have a documentary that doesn't preach one political side or another, it just informs. And to me that makes it a great documentary.
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on October 11, 2016
Interesting. Think I should have read the book, but I didn't. Some conclusions were good. I did have a concern about the conclusion that the drop in crime was due to legalized birth control, but that is a personal and political matter. Oh, I guess the movie is too.
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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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on August 12, 2015
If you listen to the podcast and enjoy them, you will enjoy this video. I listen to the podcast and this was a nice treat to be able to see rather than just listen. They use fun graphics to explain the stories. Would love another video.
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on October 18, 2016
An Enjoyable Education through the witty knowledge and 'smart-wisdom' that we might have known. The clear explanation with free-style dialogue and visuals is a true present day education. Taking the viewer on the path of understanding the why's and what's of today's matters and challenges, make us all better informed and eventually helps us to make informed decisions. Plus this is a enjoyable film done creatively.
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on July 4, 2015
The part about Roe v. Wade is a bit far-fetched. Not really based on statistical research or similar work done by others. Watch it for the entertainment value--just don't believe you are getting educated!
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on March 20, 2015
Interesting documentary. It was informative, light and at times funny. The best part for me was watching the segment about giving cash incentives to ninth graders. I think I will implement those ideas in my own home.
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on October 22, 2016
Insightful. All about eliminating bias and letting the data lead us to the actual facts of the matter. To bad that what passses for our news media these days can't use this same approach to reporting. Facts are wonderful things to have.
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