Bigger, Stronger, Faster* - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Bigger, Stronger, Faster* Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ July 17, 2011
I believe that Bigger, Stronger, Faster is an overrated documentary. What is it telling us that we don't know? Absolutely nothing. We know how Anabolic Steroids affect the body and we know that people who use a drug will say it has no harmful affect on them. If you take an extreme amount of any type of drug it will cause health risks and steroids are no different. No drug is completely safe and all these bodybuilders telling us it's not hurting them are full of shit.

As for the documentary; it's technically well made. I was entertained by the first half, but it just kept saying the same things over and over and over. The filmmaker doesn't take a side on the issue and that's what saves this documentary for me. With that said the documentary also comes off as unfocused. At times it seems like, hey steroids aren't that bad. Then the next second, steroids are awful and can kill you.

To me the brothers and the filmmaker both cop out and blame America for the use of steroids. It's competition that drives them to take steroids. Well you could have an inkling of a backbone and take a stand against it. Growing up, I had posters of Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa. I cheered as Barry Bonds approached Hanks record. Now when I see those faces it makes me sick. Bonds says to the media, you lie too. So I guess that makes it ok that he cheated to become the best. That's how I feel this documentary comes across. It's ok that athletes are cheating to be the best because everyone lies and cheats. We live in America and this is just a side of effect of that. That's bullshit and this documentary comes off as bullshit to me.
Super Reviewer
February 18, 2011
Eye opening documentary on steroid use here in America. Really examines the good and bad from it in a very entertaining fashion. Definately worth a watch for just about anybody.
Super Reviewer
August 22, 2010
A good muscled look at the taboo of steroid use and the biggorexic pressures on modern American men. Film-maker is in an ideal situation for doing this project, with two brothers who have used steroids and the film-maker himself having only dabbled with them once and his whole life struggled with the decision of whether or not to plunge in. I think this is just as revealing about widespread cultural hypocrisy as Grass, The Union, Bowling for Columbine, and the works of The Yes Men.
Super Reviewer
July 22, 2009
An great doc that shows us how America's need for being the best changes the way people alter themselves.
Super Reviewer
December 23, 2008
This was a very good documentary.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
December 6, 2008
[font=Arial][color=DarkRed]Chris Bell came from a roughly normal family in Poughkeepsie, New York. He and his brothers were a little chubby but saw weight lifting as their ticket to success. In the 1980s, Bell and his brothers idolized muscle-bound heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan, and Sylvester Stallone. Muscles were the answer for the Bells. Chris Bell became a teenage weightlifting sensation and moved out to California to follow his dreams at Gold's Gym, just like Arnold. Bell's older brother, Mike "Mad Dog" Bell, actually had a career as a professional wrestler on the national televised stage, though he was always the one getting beat up. Bell's younger brother, Mark "Smelly" Bell, could lift hundreds of pounds. Both Mad Dog and Smelly have been using steroids for years. Chris Bell decided to make a documetnary that examines both his family's interest in steroids and the culture that bigger is better. [i]Bigger Stronger, Faster* *The Side Effects of Being an American[/i] is that final product, and it radiates with sadness and anger.

Don't let the subject matter fool you. This is less an expose over steroids then it is a penetrating and somewhat sobering look into the intensely competitive culture in America to "be the best" and shuttle the rest. Bell uses a clip of Patton addressing his recruits, saying, "Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser." Bell interviews a wide variety of subjects, from doctors on both sides of the issue, and when he gets to sports fans the general line of thinking is that steroids are awful, unless, that is, they can help my team. If the dominant culture is pushing athletes to be the best that they can be, or else, then is it any wonder that taking steroids would seem customary? Should we as a nation chastise athletes that we, as a nation, pressured into juicing up to attain the glory we expect, nay, demand from our competitors? It seems like the same folks that are shaking their fists and bemoaning the impure state of athletics are shirking their own responsibility for contributing to the toxic mindset to win at all costs. In many ways, bodybuilding and muscle-bound athletes can fall prey to the same distorted mentality as those suffering under anorexia and bulimia. Both groups have significantly dissatisfied body images, one wants to continue getting smaller and the other wants to continue getting larger. Bell interviews Gregg Valentino, who has biceps that looks like five-pound sacks full of ten pounds of potatoes. He says the ladies are repulsed but the men come up to him in awe. Mad Dog says that he knows he was "destined for better things" and cannot find any sliver of satisfaction in living a normal life. His brother points out that Mad Dog has a good job, a loving family, and a wife who goes along with all of the emotional turmoil but still supports her man. Can't he be happy with just being who he is?

When the film shies away from Bell's personal connection to the topic, the movie isn't as compelling, though it is rather informative. Steroids have been painted as a scourge; however, the scientific evidence doesn't bare this out. In the end, anabolic steroids are a supplement and have risks just like any other supplement or drug on the market. Bell has plenty of data to argue that legal drugs, like tobacco and alcohol, kill tens of thousands more a year than steroids (I think the doc informs that the yearly deaths attributed to steroids is around 3). The reason our society is so misinformed about steroids is because of heightened media hysteria and the likes of overly anxious lawmakers. Bell speaks with clear disdain when he reports that in 2004 Congress spent eight days covering the topic of steroids and grilling baseball stars; that eight days was longer than Congress spent deliberating the Iraq War, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and over health care. When Congress covered the steroid topic in the 1980s they interviewed heads of national public health offices, and those wise experts stated that the health risks from steroids had been exaggerated. So Congress just ignored their testimony. I get it, steroids serve as a boogeyman because few actually know what it does or, frankly, what is actually is. There are many different kinds of steroids, some of which are used all the time with societal approval, like cortisone shots intent to aid inflammation. Where people seem to have issues is over anabolic steroids, which is an extra boost of testosterone. Bell points out that the side effects of steroids are almost always completely reversible after the user stops taking the drug. How many other drugs, legal and illegal, can make a similar claim?

A very interesting side step the film takes is over the issue of legal dietary supplements. The dietary supplement industry does not require FDA approval to sell products. This means that the FDA must prove that a product is unsafe to take it off the shelf, rather than the more traditional approach where the drug company must prove that their drug is safe before selling it to the masses. It should also be no wonder then that the supplements that people buy in giant bottles at health food megastores are likely not much more than placebos, if you're lucky (one supplement package advertised its "new legal formula"). Bell hires a few illegal immigrants and concocts his own dietary supplement with rice powder. He bottles it, labels it as "The Juice," and can sell it for a gigantic profit margin, and it's all legal.

Is performance-enhancement just apart of being an American and living out the American dream? Tiger Woods got laser eye surgery and can now see better than 20/20, so is that an acceptable performance enhancer? What about the United State's fighter pilots who regularly are prescribed "go pills" to boost their energy levels? It's suitably alarming to discover that the United States is the only country to make it mandatory for its fighter pilots to take amphetamines. Of course not everything Bell touches upon as performance-enhancing drugs measures up credibly, like when he mentions beta-blockers for people with performance anxiety. I don't think tamping down anxiety is akin to enhancing performance since it merely allows the performer to perform with what they already have. Bell's documentary has loads more questions than answers, but the best part of the film is that it doesn't hide from contradictions but instead magnifies them and asks for an ongoing debate.

Bell's film is wide-ranging, lucid, and unexpectedly funny, but the most compelling moments occur when Bell looks at his own family history. Both of his brothers will likely be life-long steroid users because they feel that it doesn't give them an edge but evens the playing field. Mike's little brother, Smelly, is not content to go from lifting 700 pounds to 600 pounds. Neither brother has the courage to open up to loved ones about the steroid use. Smelly teaches teen boys and they idolize him, quoting his encouraging assertions that the kids don't need drugs to go places. The hypocrisy is sad and I wonder what Smelly's kids will think once they catch the documentary. Bell's mother is brought to tears trying to determine where she feels she went wrong as a parent. Two of her boys are rampant steroid users and have equated muscles with self-importance, but it's the admission that Bell himself once tried steroids that shatters her. When Bell also enlightens his mother that her own brother was the source of steroids then she just shuts down. She pleads with her son to stop because she can only take too much. Bell was brought up to believe that cheating is wrong and inherently un-American, and yet the system is practically rigged to reward cheaters. Carl Lewis and other 1988 U.S. Olympians actually tested positive for banned supplements but were given a pass, as the Olympic Committee blamed the results on "inadvertent use." Sure.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster[/i] is a clear-headed and entertaining movie that challenges the audience to reconsider its feelings over steroids. The film is informative and presents counter arguments and thankfully plays out multiple sides to controversial and complicated issues. By the end of the film, Bell isn't necessarily pro-'roids but asking that we better scrutinize the culture that pushes for greatness at any cost. Human beings willingly destroy their bodies out of a desire to simply forever be better. When perfection is adopted as the norm then it's no wonder that millions of Americans will never be remotely satisfied with whom they are. Bell encounters a 50-year-old body builder at the gym he works at. This man is packed with muscle but he says he's forever "in training" and still waiting for his big break, whatever that may be. He currently lives in his car, but he justifies his plight by saying that if he can out-lift and out-bench others then he's the winner. This man could not be a more perfect symbol of the price of winning at all costs. The asterisk in the film's title is what truly tells all.

Nate's Grade: B+[/color][/font]
Super Reviewer
½ June 28, 2008
it's a documentary, sure, and sometimes i know that that's the best sleep therapy anyone can ask for, but this one will sneak up on you. starting out as a personal look at steroid use and its far-reaching effects on american culture, not to mention it's youngest adherents, it becomes a commentary and a question about, f'instance, how far will we morally go to win...?
if you've ever looked in the mirror and wondered what it would take to make yourself look like the superstar you alone seem to think you are, then don't be surprised to find yourself thinking about this film days after you've seen it...
Super Reviewer
May 30, 2008
This movie is a super timely indictment on the steroid use that has become rampant in America. What makes an American hero? What makes a hero get to his/her position? Must you be strong? Can you be that way without abusing or cheating? And if everyone is cheating to get there, is it really cheating at all?

These are some of the questions posed and answered in this movie. I found it to be very a insightful and in-depth commentary on something we've all heard sound-bites of on the news. It's really an important film to see--no matter if you're an athlete or a politician or anybody at all with dreams of a better life. What will you do to get there and how will you deal with the consequences of your decisions and actions?

What I like about this film is that, on the surface, it's a movie about steroid use; but it quickly unveils the deeper metaphor that the urge to succeed will cause people to do almost anything in any aspect of life to get to the summit.

The documentary is also very good at showing both sides of the story: those who are against "enhancement" and those who are in favor of it. Since the director himself is caught in the middle of both worlds, it's only appropriate and fair that he tell both sides of the story.

The film itself is very entertaining. It plays out with a Michael Moore-esque affinity for humor, sarcasm and exposing the truth then slinging it in the faces of those caught backtracking in a lie or a ridiculous comment--rendering them speechless.

If you like documentaries that are entertaining and have an important message, definitely check this one out.
Super Reviewer
December 17, 2010
A fascinating documentary about steroids make 'Big Stronger Faster*' an informative biopic on physical enhancement.
Super Reviewer
½ June 10, 2009
"Bigger, Stronger, Faster*" is an insightful and personal documentary by Chris Bell about steroid use in this ultracompetitive society. Growing up in Poughkeepsie with two brothers, they idolized the professional wrestling they watched on television and began bodybuilding with both brothers using steroids to enhance themselves. One actually got to live his dream as a role player on wrestling broadcasts while Chris moved to Venice Beach to sell gym subscriptions at the legendary Gold's Gym.

What Chris does is ask the hard questions about steroids that Congress failed to do in 2005 and compares the steroid hearings with the HUAC hearings in pure length.(My question is when are they going to investigate the use of silicone and steroids in the porn industry? After all, porn and baseball are both businesses that earn a lot of money. So, what's the difference?) In the end, he comes up with some fascinating conclusions that counter the alarmist gossip that is repeated by the media ad nauseum which follows the party line that if a drug is legal, then it must be safe, and vice versa. In short, steroids are drugs and like all drugs, they have side effects but most of these are temporary. In fact they have benefits which Chris learns about when he talks with an AIDS patient whose health depends on using them. He also talks with quite a few experts and other users. What is important to note is the lack of any long term studies.
Super Reviewer
May 14, 2010
Great Doc. old school style, especially since it comes from a first time filmmaker. It covers everything and it's what all docs should be, objective. This film shows that the steroid issue isn't as black and white as most people think, and really hits hard how all of their childhood heroes were on Roids. The family stuff is very powerful and they could have done a whole doc. just on the families struggle with the ethics of steroids. It also works well as a study on how Americans will do anything to be the best and how they are rewarded. Chris Bell has gone out and made a personal film about the problem with Steroids in America, and he leaves everything on the table.
Super Reviewer
½ January 1, 2009
An excellent documentary that really presented both sides and let you make up your own mind. It really goes beyond steroids though, and allows you to reflect on American culture altogether.
Super Reviewer
½ December 30, 2008
There's really one scene that keeps it from being a five-star documentary. Presenting a "fact-based", all sides represented documentary is pretty hard these days?thanks to bumfuck Moore, but Chris Bell does it. And it's an engrossing ride the whole way through.
Super Reviewer
November 25, 2008
A good documentary about the world of steroids. Shows both sides of the issue and really does not leave anything out. This film got me thinking on how hard an issue it really is to try to and solve.
Super Reviewer
November 23, 2008
An honest view of steroids use and how the media has spinned its side effects. Despite it providing information of the fact that the use of steroids are not as dangerous as most people claim they are, you can still see how it rips families apart.
Super Reviewer
November 15, 2008
A very professional documentary from a man named Christopher Bell, whose two brothers are both unrepentant steroid users. Bell talks with his brothers, but the majority of the movie is a Michael Moore style examination of a subject, except with less of a specific agenda. Bell does not buy into the demonization of steroids by the media, nor does he endorse their use. The result is a surprisingly un-biased look at its subject, which is rare among documentaries like this. Through his examination, the movie evolves from simply looking at drugs and begins to examine the underlying hypocrisies of a society which glorifies people like Arnold Schwarzenegger but demonizes what he used to get so ripped. Basicly, this is the documentary that Supersize Me wishes it was, it?s a wonderfully made examination of a subject which never takes the easy way out of an argument.
Super Reviewer
½ June 2, 2008
Chris Bell attacks the issue of performance enhancing drugs from all angles here: socially, politically, and physiologically. The strengths of the movie are twofold. The interviews with the big players at hand are candid and appalling and worth the recommendation alone. Secondly, Bell leaves no stone unturned, posing more questions than answering them. Like Michael Moore's approach to gun control in "Bowling for Columbine", "Bigger, Stronger, and Faster*" will question your perspective while it uncovers the bigger issues at hand. A big thumbs up to a documentary that is bigger, better, and deeper than just about any other documentary of 2008.
Super Reviewer
½ October 26, 2008
We don't really learn anything new and I found the narration pretty annoying.
Super Reviewer
August 24, 2008
Great documentary about steroids and performance enhancing drugs.
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