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March 22, 2024 / Vortex Media

Starring: William Shatner

Directed By: Alexandre O. Philippe

Captain Kirk. T.J. Hooker. Denny Crane. Big Giant Head. Alexander the Great. Henry V. Priceline's Negotiator. These are but a handful of the innumerable masks worn by William Shatner over seven extraordinary decades onstage and in front of the camera.

A peerless maverick thespian, electrifying performer, and international cultural treasure, Bill (as he prefers to be called), now 91 years young, is the living embodiment of his classic line "to boldly go where no man has gone before." In unprecedented fashion, You Can Call Me Bill strips away all the masks he has worn to embody countless characters, revealing the man behind it all.

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating 1 out of 5

William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill squanders its potential with flawed narration that fails to develop a focused perspective for viewers, instead indulging William Shatner’s eclectic thoughts as he recounts his life without structure or intelligence.

Documentaries about famous movie stars have been having a good run recently with films such as last year’s Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie and Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story, which premiered at this year’s edition of the Sundance Film Festival. The latest celebrity to receive the same treatment is William Shatner, known for numerous television series and film roles, but best known as Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek. While the film premiered at last year’s SXSW Film Festival, the film is finally set to be released in theatres this week across the nation, and with Shatner being the focus of the film, it’s sure to capture audiences’ attention. And while the idea of learning more about the Canadian icon and his life beyond his most popular roles is no doubt enticing, this documentary is one of the most frustrating films I have ever seen.

With documentaries that are based on an individual’s life, it’s important to have multiple people interviewed to bring out different perspectives of the film’s subject. It’s the only way to capture the individual as they truly are, as we are our actions and how we treat the people we surround ourselves with. There is nothing wrong with having the documentary’s subject being part of the interview process, as only they can truly provide unrestricted access into their life experiences, thoughts and opinions. But, William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill is so narrowly focused that it fails to provide an engaging portrait of Shatner, only indulging Shatner’s own thoughts and fails to provide a more objective perspective on his life that his friends and family could have given to this documentary.

The documentary is a one man show as Shatner is the sole narrator and subject of the documentary, spewing off a stream of consciousness as random thoughts come to his mind about his beliefs, past and thoughts on life in general. Sometimes these thoughts are relevant to the part of his life the visual aspect of the film is focusing on, which is divided up into chapters based on themes, but for the most part they are an eclectic collection of unconnected and frankly bizarre thoughts. It truly makes Shatner come across as slightly off his rocker, causing unintentional moments of laughter for the audience while they fail to learn much about Shatner other than the fact that his mind has some very strange thoughts. With this narration style, despite the film being broken down into chapters covering different aspects of Shatner’s life, the film feels narratively scattered as it jumps around in time without any clear direction of why these jumps are occurring other than the fact that that is where Shatner’s mind is wandering at that moment. This makes for a very tedious viewing experience, causing the film to come across more as an autobiographical meandering of Shatner’s life rather than an insightful documentary that allows audiences to get to know the man beneath his most famous roles. Not even good editing and mixture of historical footage, family photos, interview footage with Shatner and visuals can salvage the unfocused stream of consciousness that makes up this documentary.

There may be something in William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill for die-hard fans of William Shatner who know all about his life, but for those viewers looking to learn more about this legendary Canadian actor, this is not the documentary for you. Despite a celebrated career of many memorable roles alongside his infamous performance as James T. Kirk on Star Trek, the narrow minded perspective of this documentary narrated by the ramblings of William Shatner prevents William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill from intelligently conveying William Shatner’s life story in a remotely captivating manner.

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