Bigger Stronger Faster* Review
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As a kid in the ‘80s, documentary filmmaker Chris Bell caught a serious case of Hulkamania. He idolized Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and anyone else who kicked butt in the name of the greatest country in the world. But Chris was just a little guy. His older brother, Mike (“Mad Dog”), was chubby. And his little brother, Mark (“Smelly”), had a learning disability. In the age of Rocky, Rambo, and Wreslemania, these three brothers from Poughkeepsie decided that their lives would be better if they could just be bigger.

Now, a couple of decades later, 30-something Chris Bell looks back on his family’s body-building obsession. And as he wonders why he hasn’t become the body-building superstar that he always dreamed of being, he keeps coming back to the same reason: he’s never used steroids. Though both of his brothers—and, seemingly, pretty much everybody else in the business—has been using steroids for years, Bell always thought it was wrong. Somehow, it just seemed like cheating.

So, in his documentary, Bigger Stronger Faster*, Bell explores the pros and cons of steroid use—as well as the other things that Americans (especially men) do and consume in order to bulk up. After all, we’re Americans; we’re supposed to be bigger, stronger, and faster than everybody else—just like Rocky.

Bigger Stronger Faster* is an eye-opening and thought-provoking documentary, thanks to Bell’s unique point-of-view. As an anti-steroids body builder with two pro-steroids brothers, he’s able to come at the topic with a whole lot of personal questions—and he makes a lot of great points (for both sides) in the process. And by telling his family’s story, he gives the issue a face.

But this is more than just a story about one family’s experience with steroids. Bell also studies the history of steroid use, as well as the arguments for and against it. He even looks into other kinds of performance enhancement—everything from altitude chambers to dietary supplements to eye surgery—to ask what’s okay, what’s not okay, and what counts as cheating.

Throughout this strangely fascinating film, Bell talks to people on both sides of the issue, handling the topic with as much objectivity—and even curiosity—as possible. He talks to doctors who discuss side effects and doctors who say there aren’t any side effects. He talks to wrestlers and body builders (including his brothers) who openly discuss their steroid use. He also talks to clueless politicians, Olympic athletes and coaches, and—in the film’s most heart-breaking moments—his own mother, who just doesn’t understand why her sons feel the need to do what they do.

You may or may not agree with the strong conclusions that Bell comes to in the end. But, no matter how you feel about the issue, you’re sure to be both challenged and entertained by this thoughtful documentary.

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