Bigger, Stronger, Faster* DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

Chris Bell is a name I’m putting on my radar from now on after this fantastic doc*mentary that shows how doc*mentaries can be unbiased again. A true eye-opener and a fascinating film with the perfect mix of information and entertainment.
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A simply incredible doc*mentary that informs just as much as it entertains.
THE BAD
Some more special features would've been nice, but oh well. It's still great!
THE FEATURE
I've never been really big into doc*mentaries. Sure, I saw all the Michael Moore flicks (except Sicko) and I've even seen a few others like Steve James' amazing Hoop Dreams along with Beyond the Mat and probably one of the best doc*mentaries ever, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which is currently the only doc*mentary I own in my DVD collection that is nearing 600 titles. I'm now making room for a second doc*mentary on my shelves after watching the tremendous Bigger Stronger Faster, a film that takes a surprisingly balanced look at steroids and performance enhancing drugs in American society.

I don't get to see many doc*mentaries, but just from the subject matter and word of mouth, I'd been wanting to see this one for awhile. It garnered some major buzz after debuting at the Sundance Film Festival almost exactly a year ago and the film was given a minor limited theatrical release last May before rolling out to DVD. Now that I've finally seen it, this doc has more than lived up to the hype and has just the right blend of snappy writing and entertainment with - get this - a TWO-SIDED look at the issues revolving around performance enhancers in America (a net that's cast wider than you might think) all rolled into a slick, well-edited piece.

Chris Bell is the man that takes us through this journey that starts way back in 1984, when Chris, a youngster in Poughkeepsie, New York, says he knew who was responsible for the troubles over in Iran: none other than the professional wrestler Iron Sheik... and the one man that could save us was none other than Hulk Hogan. From there he tells us that Hogan was his idol and he transformed himself from a fat little kid to a powerful teen, winning powerlifting awards throughout high school. He thoroughly heeded the Hulkster's credo's of "say your prayers and eat your vitamins" only to find out it wasn't enough... and only to find out later on, that those he worshipped were actually cheating with steroids. From there we go on quite an incredible saga, one that takes a look at Bell's own family - and his two brothers who were at one time professional wrestlers and who are both still on steroids - to Capitol Hill, Balco and anywhere and everywhere steroids and other performance enhancers can be found... and you'll be quite surprised where he goes.

I always thought this would be devoted strictly to steroids, human growth hormones and all the other drug names we've been inundated with for the past few decades or so. Bell takes us much farther than that, though, painting the same brush used with steroids to other walks of live, like a drug that instrumentalists take to control their breathing and calm their nerves and it even delves into some of the positive effects that steroids can have, like the AIDS patient who says steroids saved his life or the farmer whose injected, insanely big cows produce some of the healthiest meat you can eat. This thoroughly-researched doc*mentary is quite an eye-opener and I'm quite amazed at how unbiased it is. On one hand, we have Chris Bell, producing tons of information that refute how terrible they are for you and at the same time, we have Bell, who has worked out naturally and built himself up the old-fashioned way all his life, against them himself. It really is quite a wonderful display of duality and another big appeal of the film is Chris Bell himself.

Unlike the sardonic, nasally annoying Michael Moore, you actually don't mind watching Chris Bell. His writing, along with writing partners Alexander Buono and Tamsin Rawaday, has a great sense of humor, but makes it a point to show it more in his writing and voiceovers, rather than in actual interviews. When he's talking to people in the film, whether it be his Congressman who started the whole Congressional steroid hearings for baseball, or the father of a 17-year-old who committed suicide after steroid use (who testified at that same hearing) or anyone else, Bell has a great everyman quality to him and he doesn't have this I'm-smarter-than-you-and-I'll-show-you-why trait that Mr. Moore flaunts every chance he gets. While he doesn't patronize his interview subjects or try to trap them, he doesn't shy away from asking a tough question or two, but he's very respectful in the way he does so, which is refreshing to see, for a change.

Bigger, Faster, Stronger* is one HELL of a film that is simply a must-see and will make you look at many aspects of this country and our society in a new way.
THE EXTRAS
We don't get a ton of features here, two of them, really. Behind the Scenes is first up and they take us through how they made this doc*mentary. We're introduced to the team of producers and writers that put this together and we're given little factoid blurbs on top of the footage. Sadly, it's only a little three-minute featurette that ends with some photos taken at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, where the film premiered. They could've had more stuff on here, I thought, but it's a nice little glimpse behind the scenes at the team that made this film possible.

The only other thing we get here is Deleted Scenes, but we sure do get plenty of them. We get 40 minutes of footage not seen in the theatrical cut and almost all of it is pretty damn cool. There are 16 deleted scenes in all here and while there are some that aren't that great, like more from the porn stars, this bit where they go to Floyd Landis' hometown and ask about his doping allegations and Mad Dog's wrestling match, which is super corny, the rest of these are pretty damn good. Doc*mentaries are a lot like comedies and they usually aren't expected to go over a certain amount in the runtime, so I'm sure most of these were cut for time reasons, but I'm glad they have them available here because there is some great stuff here.
THE VIDEO
The film is presented in the widescreen format in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
THE AUDIO
The sound is handled through either the Dolby Digital 5.1 format or the Dolby Digital 2.0 format. Your choice!
THE PACKAGE
Some nice work here. They have a big title card up top which covers the faces of athletes, actors and a professional wrestler that has quite the resembling attire of Hulk Hogan, with some critic quotes at the bottom. The back is peppered with brief critic quotes and film festival awards, along with someone's big arm flexing and a synopsis, tiny special features listing, some random pics and the billing block and tech specs. It gets your attention just fine, I say.
THE FINAL WORD
Chris Bell is a name I'm putting on my radar from now on after this fantastic doc*mentary that shows how doc*mentaries can be unbiased again. A true eye-opener and a fascinating film with the perfect mix of information and entertainment.

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