Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: Morgan Spurlock Made a Star Turn in "Super Size Me"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 195 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Super Size Me (2004)
Running time:  96 minutes (1 hour, 36 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for language, sex and drug references, and a graphic medical procedure
EDITORS:  Stela Georgieva and Julie Bob Lombardi
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Morgan Spurlock, Bridget Bennett, Dr.Lisa Ganjhu, Dr. Daryl Isaacs, Alexandra Jamieson, and Dr. Stephen Siegel

Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Super Size Me dips into a controversial issue:  how much does the fast food industry contribute to America’s obesity “epidemic?”  The question is a national debate that usually centers on the personal responsibility of consumers versus the omnipresent advertising of producers and marketers of convenience foods and of fast food chains, in particular McDonald’s.

In the Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock is the star, writer, producer, and director.  He, as the lead character (and he is indeed that in this film), eats McDonald’s food products three times a day for 30 days.  The experiment is more like a dangerous stunt, but it sheds more light on an important matter.  Over the course of the film, we get to watch Spurlock’s body and mental fitness literally change as he eats more and more of the poisonous (but surprisingly tasty) slop that is McDonald’s food products.

McDonald’s is an obvious choice, being that they are the biggest fast food chain in the world.  Many people automatically associate the corporation’s name with the term “fast food,” and the corporation is a lightening rod for media attention, something a documentary sorely needs.  Truthfully, few people eat three meals a day at McDonald’s, but many people eat there at least once a day (to which I can personally attest to knowing some) or at least once a week, which many nutritionists consider too often.  However, by going overboard by eating McDonald’s so often, Spurlock makes his point.

Super Size Me isn’t anti-McDonald’s, so much as Spurlock is speaking against the overwhelming marketing presence of the giant corporations that spend over a billion dollars a year in advertising.  His argument is partly that if adults must exercise personal responsibility, don’t fast food companies have any responsibility in selling food they know to be (to put it mildly) unhealthy.

In the end, the most important thing is whether or not Super Size Me works as a documentary.  The film takes an irreverent look at both obesity and at one of the main causes of obesity, fast food chains.  However, the film is a little light on expert testimony.  For all the doctors and nutritionists that appeared, it would be better if Spurlock had interviewed more historians and specialists on the effects of advertising on both adults and children.

Still, Spurlock made a very entertaining, a very informative, and ultimately very convincing film.  He’s is a great lead, very open and giving to both the camera and audience, and that helps to sell his Super Size Me.  If he didn’t give a lot of hard science, he certainly gave a hard reminder about how bad it is to eat too much crappy food.  Super Size Me does that in an engaging, informative, and hilarious way; that counts for a lot.

8 of 10

2004 Academy Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Documentary, Features” (Morgan Spurlock)

Updated:  Friday, August 30, 2013

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