Bigger, Stronger, Faster*



Tribeca Film Festival (Distributed by Magnolia Pictures, produced by BSF Films)

NEW YORK -- This entertaining and journalistically credible documentary about steroid abuse succeeds in immersing viewers in the world of its story. "Bigger, Stronger, Faster*" ranges far and wide in its subject matter: weightlifting, working class relationships and aspirations, Arnold Schwarzenegger's political success and, ultimately, the failure of the American dream to deliver on its promise are just some of the topics covered. This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach not only makes for pacey entertainment, it also allows director Christopher Bell to delve deep into the matter at hand.

The docu will have definite appeal to sporty ESPN fans, but it could go wider if marketing stresses that it's not a straightforward documentary about substance abuse. Like last year's Tribeca hit. "The King of Kong," it has both drama and narrative. At root, it's a very personal story about the director and his two brothers, and that could broaden its appeal.

Athletes who take steroids are punished professionally, Bell says, as we like them to succeed under their own steam. But, others counter, what's wrong with taking drugs to become bigger, stronger and faster especially when steroids have never been proved to be harmful? Bell, a former wannabe wrestler, and his two steroid-obsessed brothers back up the science and politics with their touching stories of failure. Bell's point is that to achieve the American dream we have to be the best at what we do, and we can only be the best if we cheat.

Bell does his journalistic work well. He puts tough questions to sportsmen, politicians and his own family. He garners opinions from both sides of the steroids debate -- the athletes tend to be for them, the politicians against them, the doctors in the middle -- and he doesn't shy away from science and statistics. Film clips of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, et al, add a pop flavor.

Director: Christopher Bell. Screenwriters: Christopher Bell, Alex Buono, Tamsin Rawady. Producers: Alex Buono, Tamsin Rawady, Jim Czarnecki. Executive producers: Terrance J Aarnio, Robert Weiser, Richard Schiffrin. Director of photography: Alex Buono. Original music: Dave Porter. Editor: Brian Singbiel. No MPAA rating, 106 minutes.