University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner are the genial on-screen hosts for this adaptation of their best-selling 2005 book, which applied economic theory to a variety of offbeat social topics. The framing material was directed by Seth Gordon (The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters), and a who's who of commercial documentary makers—Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), and Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp)—contribute segments based on individual chapters. The omnibus arrangement serves mostly to contrast the more stylish and intelligent directors (Gibney, Jarecki) with the low-grade popsters (Spurlock, Ewing, and Grady); perhaps the producers hoped to suggest a marketplace of ideas, but the end result is more like a supermarket on Saturday afternoon. The content is engaging, though, particularly Levitt's controversial theories that kids with black-sounding names are professionally disadvantaged and that the legalization of abortion in the 70s caused the nationwide drop in crime rates in the 90s.
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