Well into a second career of gay-rights activism, public speaking and cooing the catchphrase “Oh, my,” George Takei has become the most likably relaxed cast member of the original Star Trek crew. Profile director Jennifer M. Kroot catches up with Sulu along stops of his busy life, speaking at multiple podiums about the Arkansas Japanese-American internment camp where he and his family spent WWII, and appearing at year-round sci-fi conventions, where the Enterprise helmsman is swamped by fans.
That’s merely the easiest way into a documentary with a lot more on its mind than feisty interviews with Takei’s frenemy William Shatner. At root is an unlikely Hollywood story: the rise of a dignified, well-spoken actor in an industry with a shameful track record. Clips from Playhouse 90, Hawaii Five-O and Jerry Lewis comedies depict Takei negotiating tricky racial terrain, aided by the creaminess of his theater-trained basso voice and coolness.
To Be Takei puts its subject’s orientation (“Not a lifestyle,” he insists) front and center. After years of staying in the closet, Takei has become proudly forthcoming, and the film makes husband Brad Altman a colead, ever at the actor’s side. Indeed, the doc works best as a relationship study, filled with endearing moments of intimate bickering. Takei is a self-admitted ham but a playful one, projecting his confidence in increasingly meaningful directions.
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