This series of documentary compilations from a popular book's writers (Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt) who introduce each chapter has some witty, provocative elements to it, but really shows how difficult it is to pull off something cohesive and compelling of this ilk. Which is usually the case for the adaptation to come close to matching its source.
Freakonomics features acclaimed directors like Eugene Jarecki, Alex Gibney, and Morgan Spurlock, among others who've done notable documentaries like Jesus' Camp and The King of Kong.
This piqued take on economics with some personal commentary and levity offered Dubner and Levitt has a certain exigent quality to it as demonstrated by Spurlock's A Roshanda By Any Other Name. His interesting look at parenting from the naming of children contrasted by preferred ones in at least two races could have been more engagingly off-center.
Gibney (who did the soberingly entertaining Enron documentary) offers a polished, beguiling look of Japanese sumo wrestling as an unscrupulous archetype of Wall Street skulduggery in Pure Corruption. It may feel a bit stiff for some but has plenty of style to burn.
Andrew Jarecki's episode may be the most controversial in its animated jocular way as It's Not Always A Wonderful Life uses clips from maybe the best of Frank Capra to explain the falling crime rate in the 1990s. His visually stimulating and inviting examination doesn't make the case for higher budgeting for increased law enforcement but a "cause and effect" of the Roe vs. Wade decision leading to fewer unwanted babies. Those, which if carried to term, may very well have ended up on a criminal path.
Lastly, a more typical "incentives-based" segment settling on underachieving students from a University of Chicago study comes by way of partners Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. Their humanistic piece, featuring the extroverted and the bored, is more character driven than insightful as to see if their grades will improve when reinforced with prizes and monetary gain.
This condensed, uneven omnibus isn't the fulfilling expose that some may wish, especially for those who've read the book which has prompted Superfreakonomics. It has some personal, lighthearted moments which approach something more affecting than strained.