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From outer space to Capitol Hill, from the silver screen to YouTube, the legendary George Takei has blazed his own trail while conquering new frontiers with a beaming trademark grin. Oh, my! To Be Takei is a look at the many roles played by eclectic 77-year-old actor/activist George Takei. His wit, humor and grace have helped him to become an internationally beloved figure and Internet phenomenon with 7-million Facebook fans and counting. The film offers unprecedented access to the daily life of George and his husband/business partner Brad and chronicles George's fascinating personal journey from Japanese American internment camp to his iconic and groundbreaking role as Sulu on "Star Trek," and his rise as an pop culture icon. Written by
"To Be Takei" is a documentary about the life of George Takei of Star Trek fame. It primarily focuses on his life today as well as his childhood in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. For me, it offered only few surprises because I already knew quite a bit about Mr. Takei, as the actor has been very public in recent years. His Twitter feeds and comedy clips online are legendary and with a HUGE following numbering in many millions. However, despite me already knowing that he's gay and married his partner back in 2008, the film did reveal some interesting information about the man. However, despite a few revelations, the best part is simply to listen to the man talk about his life...and laugh. Yes, Takei is a chronic laugher and even when he talked about subjects he didn't like (such as every time William Shatner was mentioned), his smile and laughter was omnipresent--and it's hard not to like someone who laughs this heartily and this often.
The documentary consists of Takei, and sometimes his husband, Brad, talking about their lives and going about their exhaustive routine of film, convention, radio and public service appearances. However, it did not have a narrator--something I really liked in this film. So, instead of listening to a narrator explaining or interpreting, the film just lets him talk...like you are listening to him as he talks about whatever comes to mind or whatever piques his interest. Additionally, there are many television and movie clips as well as photos--which all help tell his story. The main themes are alienation and human rights. This begins with Takei's discussion of how his and other families were denied their basic freedom when Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were forced into internment camps during WWII (FYI--this did NOT happen to German-Americans despite the US also being at war with the Nazis). And, over the course of the film, it segues into his discussing his homosexuality and gay marriage. In particular, Takei's decision to come out about his orientation as well as discussing his life with his partner--and the film does a good job humanizing homosexual marriage and puts a face on it--making it more than just a concept. The films ends with a discussion of Takei's renaissance--his new career in the busy latter years of his life as a cultural icon--as well as his coming to terms with his internment years. All in all, the ending presents an interesting and unexpected turn of events to say the least over the last decade or so of his life.
"To Be Takei" is a nice, gentle picture where you tag along with Takei and learn from him and his years of experience. Most of it is very uplifting and enjoyable--though as I mentioned above, there isn't a lot of nice stuff in the film about William Shatner and I am sure the guy won't be buying a ticket to see this film himself! However, there are also interesting interviews with surviving cast members (including Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig without his toupee, as he apparently is NOT self-conscious about his baldness), footage of Takei greeting Star Trek fans and signing autographs at a convention as well as a few interviews with his friends. The sum total of all this is enjoyable and easy to watch--just like listening to an old friend reminisce.
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