Movie Review - To Be Takei

George Takei is the Japanese-American who is best known for his role in the original series Star Trek (1966) and its subsequent films. In 2005, Takei came out as gay and began work as an activist pushing for gay rights like marriage equality.

As such, Takei is an interesting documentary subject. He's charming, personable, smart, funny and has a great voice with a particular speech pattern and an infectious laugh. Director Jennifer M. Kroot opens with a clip of Takei on The Howard Stern Show, indicating how relevant and hip he still can be.

The next shots were scenes that Kroot filmed herself of Takei walking fast, doing situps and pushups. Given Takei is in his mid 70's in age, it indicates how great in shape he still is. Takei reveals his favorite Star Trek episode is "Naked Time," an episode that features Takei's half-nude body wielding or brandishing a fencing foil. Takei's current form is probably not that much different than his tone, muscular self 40 years ago.

By his side constantly is Brad Takei, his husband and manager. Kroot's film is as much a profile of Brad as it is about George. Brad is not as comfortable on camera and he's not as good at telling stories as George like the story of how the two met at a running club. Yet, Brad has one of the greatest coming-out stories ever, and how his aunts that his mom introduced weren't really his aunts.

It's interesting to see interviews from the surviving cast of the original Star Trek series. The most interesting and surprising is with William Shatner, the show's star. There's a clip from the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner where there's some apparent hostility between Shatner and Takei, and it comes from Shatner's apparent apathy or indifference toward Takei.

Shatner rather dismisses Takei, but Takei has had just as good a late-in-life career as Shatner, if not better. Takei's early career was rather hampered because of the fact he's Asian and was secretly gay. Takei did work opposite John Wayne and guest starred on huge shows like Hawaii Five-O, Mission: Impossible and The Twilight Zone, but he relates a talk he had with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry about addressing gay characters on the original series, and being shut down.

This was back in the 60's. In the 50 years since, there has not been an openly gay character in any of the Star Trek series or movies. Takei came out in 2005. There have been a TV series and a couple movies after that, and none address the gay issue. It's a bit of a black mark on the franchise.

Yet, Takei's life also exposes another black mark, a black mark on the United States government, as Takei has produced a stage musical called Allegiance. The musical is based on his childhood when he and his family were imprisoned in a U.S. internment camp during World War II because they're Japanese in heritage. Takei tells the tale of that experience and it's powerful and heart-breaking, particularly the effect it had on the relationship between Takei and his father.

We see how the musical is a way of Takei to deal with that effect as much as it is to address the discrimination and bigotry of that time.

Through this film, we see the effect that Takei had on so many others. We hear from fellow Asian actors like John Cho and BD Wong. We also hear from fellow gay activists like Dan Savage. We also hear from many non-Asian and non-gay people who come up to him at conventions or book signings or just out on the street who love him.

"Oh my!... It's ok to be Takei!"

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for general audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 34 mins.


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