Friday, March 23, 2012

FREAKONOMICS - Thinking Out of the Box

FREAKONOMICS (documentary)
Cast: Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Directors: Seth Gordon, Morgan Spurlock, Alex Gibney, Eugene Jarecki, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Screenplay: Seth Gordon, Jeremy Chilnick & Morgan Spurlock, Peter Bull & Alex Gibney, Eugene Jarecki, Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady, based on the book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Time: 95 mins
Rating: *  *  *  (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: If you have not read the best-selling book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (pic above), catching this documentary will probably open a new door into a novel way of thinking about things that may affect your life.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? When the book Freakonomics hit the shelves in 2005, it started an 'out-of-the-box' thinking on economics and the book became an instant success, selling four million copies. The issues explored by University of Chicago economist Levitt and journalist Dubner are basically on human behaviour, like why crime dropped in New York; cheating in the venerated sport of sumo wrestling in Japan; whether a child's name influences his or her life; and how to bribe children to achieve better grades at school.

Each of the chapters are introduced by authors Levitt and Dubner who try their utmost to keep the speeches light-hearted with childish animations and occasional insults on each other. Indeed, the cameras are kind on them. As expected, most of the subjects explored involve Americans but what is interesting is the way the authors reveal certain 'secrets'. Some parts of the movie are more intriguing than others, but there are enough surprising revelations that may teach even the most jaded viewer a thing or two. 

I am particularly intrigued by the revelations into sumo wrestling, which have commentaries by Japanese experts, clips on the sumo greats, and views on how the Japanese media handle the scandal. The segment on names can sound a bit wishy-washy but the chapter on why the crime rate in New York dropped is a real eye-opener. Well, can you believe that at one time people believed that eating ice-cream can cause polio?

THE LOWDOWN: A great supplement for economics students and yuppies.


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