Jennifer M. Kroot’s documentary To Be Takei is cheesy and cute. Then again, so is her subject: actor and activist George Takei.
Takei, most notably known for his work on Star Trek as Lieutenant Sulu, is a busy man and yet we never hear him complain. When he’s not acting, he’s passionately speaking to crowds about homosexual orientation and the deserved right for same-sex marriage. After years of withholding his sexual preferences in order to better himself in the entertainment industry, he openly fights for gay advocacy. Takei is such a friendly, rhapsodic individual, we actually have an easier time picturing an elephant taking flight over Takei losing his temper.
He’s anchored by his life partner Brad, and the two share a sweet relationship with each other. Brad is a good sport but while George is a charismatic jokester, Brad (who accompanies George on tours and guest appearances to handle finances and business) has a more thorough, methodical charm. Those in the documentary have a clever time describing Brad as “detail oriented”, which is just a nicer way of saying Brad can be a fussy stickler. Nonetheless, Brad’s input and his own personal allowance to share stories about him and George are enamouring strides.
Outside of all the silly yet endearing bits between Brad and George quirkily gallivanting from one trip to another, To Be Takei is held together by George’s past. Through montages of public addresses, he explains his first-hand experience in impoverished Japanese American internment camp, and presently uses his formidable personality to raise awareness of this unfortunately fathomable period in history.
But, Takei shows his audience how he’s able to take years of pain and tragedy and reflect those feeling into art. Kroot’s film slightly touches upon the conception and construction of George’s stage play Allegiance, a musical chronicling that heartbrokenness and debilitated hope he witnessed from behind those jagged fences.
Kroot has a lot of ground to cover with To Be Takei. The doc jumps around from different hurdles and accomplishments, making the constant time leaps to be a bit dizzying. But, I believe Kroot does a good job at divvying up the right amount of time between all of the different career highs and lows. She also understands that some areas don’t need to be expanded on given the amount of known information. Takei’s weird relationship with a reluctant, coincided William Shatner is one of these moments.
To Be Takei is a likeable, impressive collection of what makes George Takei such a great, outspoken human being. It’s an utterly gratifying watch.