2.5 stars
Directed by Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Rachel Grady, Eugene Jarecki and Morgan Spurlock
Rated PG-13

The four short films that comprise this omnibus adaptation of the 2005 New York Times best-seller “Freakonomics” achieve what you’d expect, but they leave you wondering why anyone bothered.

Acclaimed documentarians Eugene Jarecki, Morgan Spurlock, Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing and the ubiquitous Alex Gibney succinctly explore various facets of the book’s driving thesis, which holds that economic models can be applied to nontraditional subjects.

Broken up with Seth Gordon-directed segments featuring authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner offering on-camera commentary, the filmmakers examine corruption in sumo wrestling, an alleged link between abortion and crime rates and more.

They incorporate a variety of methods to do so, from dark minimalist animation (Jarecki) to the sort of peppy, narration- heavy visual whirlwind that’s Spurlock’s specialty. Taken separately, the shorts adequately illustrate the ideas outlined in the book.

However, the page-to-screen transformation shortchanges the fascinating subjects by denying each filmmaker the chance to explore them in depth. As one concept starts to intrigue, it’s onto the next.

With four vignettes, plus transitions, crammed into 85 minutes, there’s not much breathing room and certainly no chance to actually savor the ideas being put forth. So, again, why’d they bother?

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