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Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: B
Video/Audio/Extras: A/B-/B+

Directed by: Alex Gibney
Written by: Alex Gibney
Based on the book by: Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
Produced by: Alex Gibney, Jason Kliot and Susan Motamed
Starring: Peter Coyote, Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind, Lou Lung Pai, Kevin Phillips
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Rent it

When I watched the documentary, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, I couldn't help but think of the classic Mel Brooks film, play and recent remake of The Producers. For those who don't know the story of The Producers, it is about two men who decide to put on the worst play in history and run off with the backers' money. For those who don't know the story of Enron scandal, the top executives in the company ran off with billions of dollars leaving the investors and employees with nothing. In fact, in both stories, the main characters go to prison. However, while The Producers is completely fictional and something to laugh with, the Enron scandal documented in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room was deadly serious and all too real.

Based on the book of the same name by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (who both appear in the film), Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is a shocking documentary that will make understand about the sleaziness of American business corporations. Peter Coyote's haunting narration, the use of audio tapes and a funny clip from The Simpsons all contribute to this biting Oscar-nominated documentary. There are some boring parts, though and I think that director/writer/producer Alex Gibney could have cut some of the running time a bit. Nonetheless, you will learn something while watching this film: Don't trust big business (Why do you think Wal-Mart hides the Widescreen DVDs?)! The film presents a sharp image, however the audio isn't that great and requires subtitles. The video and audo get an "A" grade and a "B-" grade respectively.

Heading on over to the extras, there is an audio commentary from Alex Gibney and he provides a great screen-specific chat and if you learned a lot from the film, you should here it from the horse's mouth. This man should be an Enron lecturer. Next are four deleted scenes that don't provide much information and also show us that he at least cut the film to make it below two and a half hours. That is followed by a documentary on the film that is nothing compared to the beforementioned commentary. "Where are They Now?" is an interesting featurette that looks at where the Enron executives are now. It's a good feature, but it will be dated soon, so there was no point in producing it. I saw on the news recently that they are already in the Texas trial (then again, that news is actually The Daily Show with Jon Stewart).

Then we have additional footage with the writers of The Smartest Guys in the Room and they provide more great information on Enron. They return again for another great chat in an excerpt from an episode of HDNet's Higher Definition. A radio station skit follows, but all I learned from it is what goes on in a radio station. In fact, the next extra is of Alex Gibney reading Enron skits and is surprsingly more interesting. The disc ends off with some funny Enron editioral cartoons, three magazine articles and the theatrical trailer. The DVD starts up with previews for The Constant Gardener and Broken Flowers (Wow! The latter film must have been mentioned a million times on The DVD Archives, already).

People who want to check all of this Best Documentary nominees should rent this, since they will only be watching it once. However, it is a great film that fans of documentaries should enjoy and the only people who should buy it are the Enron executives, so that they can watch it over and over and catch all the mistakes that they made.

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