Thursday, September 01, 2005

Movie Review: Super Size Me

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 5/7/04 (limited); 5/14/04 (wider)
Running Time: 1:38
Rated: Not Rated (Profanity, occasionally disgusting images)

Director: Morgan Spurlock
Producer: Morgan Spurlock
Written by: Morgan Spurlock
Studio: The Samuel Goldwyn Company

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In the United States, food portions are larger than in any other country, and so are the people. Some have coined America’s rapid increase in obesity a “sudden epidemic,” and most pin this outward expansion exclusively on the fast food industry.

To prove that fast food is the driving cause of Americans’ growing girth, first-time writer/director/producer Morgan Spurlock attempts a 30-day McDonald’s binge (or as one doctor calls it a “Mac Attack”). Before overindulging in nothing but Mickey D’s, Spurlock lays out a few rules. He must eat three meals a day—entirely comprised of items on McDonald’s menu. He must order every item on the menu at least once, and he must “Super Size” a value meal when asked upon ordering.

Prior to partaking in this gluttonous experiment, Spurlock enlists himself under the care of three different physicians: a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, and a family practitioner. Spurlock also seeks additional counsel from a dietician and an exercise physiologist. In each of the doctor’s professional opinion, Spurlock shows outstanding general health—spot-on blood pressure, normal cholesterol, low triglycerides, and flawless liver and kidney functions. However, by the end of his McDiet, the results are shocking.

Throughout his month-long pig-out on quarter-pounders, Spurlock maintains both a witty attitude and a lack of concern in depicting his degradation. Surely, vomiting out of a car-window and hearing your girlfriend complain about your energy-level in the bedroom is embarrassing. Nonetheless, Spurlock willingly depreciates himself, and in doing so, he keeps viewers entertained and enthused.

While Spurlock’s ingestion of fat is the film’s primary focus, the picture’s most intriguing moments are derived elsewhere. Through a series of various interviews with lawmakers, health experts, kids, and cooks, Spurlock reveals stunning facts and numbers. His conclusions – concerning the overall declining health of our nation and the impact that a corrupt and immoral food industry poses – are both informative and captivating. Spurlock’s interview with a few kids sums up the shock value best, when the children instantly recognize a picture of Ronald McDonald over a depiction of Jesus Christ.

While the Academy Award nominated documentary does take on a satirical overtone, its excellent graphics, super-shocking statistics, and engrossing information stress the gravity of the subject matter. Its aftereffects are daunting enough to prevent anyone from pulling up to a drive-thru after viewing. In fact, some may be so utterly disgusted with fast food that they will ban every processed food found between buns.

Is it a coincidence that six weeks after Super Size Me premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, McDonald’s expunged its “Super Size” option from their menu and suddenly became more diet conscious? I think not. Because the savvy Morgan Spurlock sacrificed his health, there may be hope for healthier choices when it comes to eating fast and inexpensive food.

Even though Super Size Me could have used crisper organization and a more in-depth analysis of both corporate social responsibility and the conundrum between economics and ethics, it is still a must-see. My order is in for Super Size Me to be projected on the moon; that way, our entire nation will be better informed about what the human body should be able to distinguish as waste before consumption. (*** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2005