Bigger, Stronger, Faster*
Directed by Chris Bell. (2008, PG-13, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., June 6, 2008
Remember when Major League Baseball was up against the wall for looking the other way on steroid use? Despite the fact that their players were puffing up like soufflés and routinely hitting home runs into neighboring cities, league officials dealt with that controversy like Capt. Renault shutting down Rick’s roulette wheel in Casablanca: They were shocked – shocked! – to find their players were taking performance-enhancing drugs. Well, documentarian Bell was shocked as well when he found out the vitamin-fueled American heroes of his youth – Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger – were users as well. Only he was shocked for real. Even at age 33, Bell couldn’t believe that the America he grew up in was full of liars, cheats, fake heroes, and charlatans. And he’s a professional-wrestling fan! I know what you’re thinking: How naive can one guy be? Normally I’d be asking the same question, but there’s something so genuine in Bell’s demeanor, something so wide-eyed in his pursuit of this newly discovered truth, something so devastating about his disappointment when he realizes that even his own brothers are hooked on steroids, that it would take a harder heart than mine to be unsympathetic. Bigger, Stronger, Faster* is full of revelations, all brought to light by Bell’s good-natured, Michael Moore-lite dogging of athletes, health experts, government officials, and even his own parents (who have mastered the art of willful ignorance when it comes to their unnaturally bulbous sons). Enhancement drugs, he learns, are everywhere – beta blockers for musicians with performance anxiety, liquid Viagra for porn stars with … well … performance anxiety, even amphetamines for fighter pilots in the Air Force – so who’s to say which ones should be illegal? Especially since there are no studies that actually prove steroids are bad for you. Wait, what? That’s right: According to the experts Bell interviews, there’s no proof that steroids cause cancer or kidney failure or impotence or any of the other calamities we’ve been told they cause. Steroids, they claim, aren’t illegal because they’re dangerous; they’re illegal because lawmakers believe using them is cheating and therefore – wait for it – un-American. This is remarkable! Is the rage against steroids really nothing more than misinformed cultural hysteria? Is this our generation’s Reefer Madness moment? If so, then Bigger, Stronger, Faster* may prove to be more than just a good time at the movies; it could be another Super Size Me … only bigger. Muscle, after all, weighs more than fat.