This anthology documentary is based on Freakonomics, a wildly overrated book about using economics to look at everyday life. (Before the credits, the film informs us that the book was a "global phenomenon" that provided "a new way to view the world." Yeah, sure. I know that I divide my life into pre- and post-Freakonomics halves. After 9/11, it was the defining moment of my generation.) Each of the four segments addresses a different theme from the book: Morgan Spurlock directs a jittery, ADD-ish look at baby names; Alex Gibney provides a supremely dull journey into the world of crooked sumo wrestling; Eugene Jarecki is responsible for a segment about crime and abortion that is quite possibly the worst example of computer animation I have ever seen (and that includes The Lawnmower Man); and Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady direct a competent, TV news–style entry about an attempt to bribe ninth graders into getting good grades.
The film wallows in self-satisfaction. The authors of the book, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, grin as they tell us What It All Means, and how their little story is a parable for The Secret Truth Behind It All, and you just can't help but fantasize about slapping them in the mouth before the beginning of the first segment. It all feels like a tired victory lap for a book that has already seen way too much success.