That asterisk has a purpose, as does the one that may hound Barry Bonds’s stats, no matter how many dingers he’s knocked. As pumped-up as some of its subjects, Chris Bell’s hyperactive documentary on athletic steroid use finds an entertainingly zany groove between vein-popping Hulkamania, Rambo-style aggression and the darker side of American supersizing. Bell, a natural talker and debunker, comes from a tight-knit Poughkeepsie family that managed to produce three humongous sons, two of them admittedly hooked on juicing. Conversations with these siblings—one a former pro wrestler, the other a weight lifter—form the dramatic core of a fine examination into male body ideals shaped in front of the TV.
Even if Bigger, Stronger, Faster* occasionally bears Morgan Spurlock’s oversharey influence, Bell is no mere stuntumentarian. There is some serious investigation into the science and (unregulated) manufacture of supplements, including one scary sequence in which Bell and a few illegal Mexican laborers make their own powder. A father crusading against steroids after his teenage son’s death is sensitively but firmly confronted by Bell, who wants truth over reassurance. He fully explores his subject, culturally and politically—all the way up to Ahnold’s trajectory from Gold’s Gym to the governor’s mansion. Bell makes the journey humorous and harrowing.