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SUPER SIZE ME (NR) (2004)

Roadside Attractions, Samuel Goldwyn Films, and The Con

Official Site

Director: Morgan Spurlock

Producers: Morgan Spurlock and The Con

 

 Rating:


Before Super Size Me has even opened, it has already generated a great deal of publicity. The film’s director, Morgan Spurlock, who is chronicled in the documentary on his month-long quest to eat only food from McDonald’s, won this year’s Sundance prize for best director, and has been a recent presence on late-night talk shows. McDonald’s has even announced the elimination of its Supersize line of drinks and fries, though they claim that this decision had nothing to do with the movie. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then no one appreciates Super Size Me more than Soso Whaley, a fellow at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute. In response to what she sees as the “anti-corporate, anti-fast food take on the “evil’ McDonald’s,” Whaley set out to repeat Spurlock’s experience and eat nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days. The results are in, and Whaley actually lost 10 pounds and lowered her cholesterol. One can assume that the slimming effects of Whaley’s McDonald’s diet have only buttressed her initial take on Super Size Me: that the film “is nothing more than simple junk science.”

It would be difficult to miss the point of Super Size Me more than Whaley’s comment indicates that she did. Though the film is every bit the anti-corporate screed that she claims it to be, Super Size Me is not “junk science” because it is not science at all. Far from disinterested research, the film is clearly polemic. From virtually the first minute, it is clear that Spurlock finds little or no value in fast food, and places upon the industry a great deal of the blame for the nation’s problem du jour: obesity. Yet what sounds like a potentially tedious exercise in listing the evils of fast food (Gosh, look at the time! Is it too late to catch the Chomsky speech?), is far from it. What’s surprising about Super Size Me is not how informative it is, or how bad it makes fast food appear; after all, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation has been on the bestseller lists for two solid years, and the obesity “epidemic” is featured every other day on the local news. Instead, it is the charm of Super Size Me that makes it as good as it is—easy humor, unexpectedly fascinating statistical tidbits, and consistently eye-catching and clever animation make the film actually fun to watch.

At the movie’s center is Spurlock’s personal experience. Beyond the McDonald’s diet, he stopped exercising and even limited the amount of walking he did every day in order to closer replicate the experience of an average American. Though few think that fast food is terribly nutritious, the results are still surprising. On Spurlock’s second day he vomits up his lunch, by the twenty-first his doctors are advising him to stop. At the end he has gained a staggering 25 pounds.

But Spurlock’s diet is only part of what Super Size Me is about. The director also traveled the country interviewing school cafeteria cooks, a former surgeon general, lawyers, lobbyists, and high school students in order to explain why Americans are getting so fat so quickly. The records of his travels and interviews are expertly woven in with shots of Spurlock’s diet struggles: mood swings, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, and a steadily increasing desire to eat McDonald’s food. Combined with a barrage of irrefutable statistical evidence, the intertwining strands make it difficult to walk out of the theatre without a strong desire to banish fast food from one’s life. Whatever one’s opinion on fast food, though, Super Size Me is informative, entertaining, and not to be missed.

—Mike O’Connor

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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