Friday, May 30, 2008

Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Sylvester Stallone, Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The 1980s saw an explosion of butt-kicking in America, observes Christopher Bell in the raucously funny and surprisingly insightful prologue to his debut documentary, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster*." And as a 12-year-old kid from a loving but undeniably short and doughy family in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Bell and his brothers were particularly susceptible to the message. As he reminds us, the don't-mess-with-the-U.S. Reagan years were an overheated response to '70s downers such as the Iran hostage crisis. But for the Bell boys, it was simply a call to ripped, bulging arms.

What began simply as a documentary about steroid use in America, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster*" (The asterisk refers to the movie's subtitle: "The Side-Effects of Being American") turns out to be a surprisingly comprehensive and insightful look at a culture predicated on might and obsessed with achieving success at any cost.

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