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"SUPER SIZE ME"
(2004) (Morgan Spurlock) (Not Rated)

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QUICK TAKE:
Documentary: A man conducts an experiment on himself by eating nothing but food from McDonalds for thirty straight days.
PLOT:
After hearing the McDonalds Corporation defend itself against a lawsuit filed by two overweight adolescents who claimed their condition was caused by eating the fast food establishment's offerings, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock decides to conduct an experiment on himself.

After being checked out by a team of doctors and nutritionists to document his current state of health, Morgan sets out on a 30-day course of eating nothing but what's offered on the menu at McDonalds. As his girlfriend and vegan chef Alex watches in horror and worry, Morgan sets out on what he calls an eight-year-old's dream.

Yet, as the days pass and the allure of eating fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner wanes, Morgan discovers that such an extreme diet can indeed be hazardous to your health.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
If you've seen most any car commercial recently, you've likely noticed the onscreen fine print pointing out that any driving maneuvers in it were done by professionals on a closed course. What, are we automatons who will automatically try to imitate whatever we see? If so, perhaps we should have similar idiot warnings on films such as "Super Size Me."

After all, its documentary filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock, took it upon himself to eat nothing but a diet of McDonald's offerings for 30 days straight. Yet, he isn't out to expose the copycat idiots of the world -- at least not intentionally.

Instead, and following a lawsuit filed by two adolescents who blamed their obesity on eating Ronnie McD's burgers, fries and shakes, he's responding to the fast food chain's ensuing claim that their food, in fact, is healthy.

Ever the opportunist, uh, concerned documentary filmmaker, Spurlock then decided to test the validity of that claim. The result is this eye-opening, completely engaging and often quite funny look at the filmmaker's quest before, during and after the self-experiment.

Spurlock has obviously fashioned his film in line with the works of acclaimed documentary filmmaker Michael Moore and similarly wants to point out what's eating and wrong with corporate America as well as Americans in general.

Like Moore, Spurlock has obviously learned that most viewers think of documentaries as flat and staid affairs. Accordingly, he's infused this work with all sorts of comedic effects. Whether it's his own deadpan voice-over narration, street interviews, facts, animation or editing done for best comedic effect, the result is infectiously funny, yet disturbing at the same time. You may never look at fast food the same way again.

Just like Moore's films, however, everything that's present needs to be taken with a grain of salt (or two, especially if you're getting the large fries with that). That's not only because of the obvious comedic attempts, but also due to whatever agenda the filmmaker might have.

While obviously not as politically driven as Moore, the fact that certain parts seem staged or at least enhanced, along with the obviously not balanced look at the subject does leave one a little doubtful about the complete truthfulness of it all.

It's not enough, though, to ruin the mood or distract the viewer from that comedy and/or the message of the film. As is the case with Moore's films, there's a plethora of intriguing facts, interviews and observations about people, places and things, not to mention stories of fast or junk food officials kicking the bucket at far too early of ages, thus making one wonder if their food was an occupational hazard.

Speaking of which, the filmmaker obviously didn't die from his 30-day diet, but the effects of it are dramatic. Going from 185 to 210 pounds, adding seven percent body fat and watching his cholesterol readings shoot through the roof, the human guinea pig's team of doctor's and nutritionists repeatedly warn him to stop, as they're increasingly worried about his test results. One even compares his liver to pÔtÚ.

Then there are the discussed reduced effects on his libido, a sore point that doesn't sit well with his live-in girlfriend Alex who also just so happens to be a Vegan chef. Irony or a bit of creative writing and/or acting? You be the judge about that or whether a 30-day diet of pizza or donuts would be good for you either.

Speaking of coincidences or what the suspicious would call a preemptive strike, McDonald's recently announced -- before the film was released but after the buzz had already grown to noisy proportions -- that it was eliminating its super sizes and introducing some healthier items on its menu. Considering what Spurlock exposes about them, us, conditioning via advertising and more, it's hard to say whether consumers will figuratively and/or literally buy that change.

What isn't hard to say, however, is that this film will certainly open a lot of eyes about such matters. There's also no denying that it's a fabulous slice of entertainment that's part exposÚ and part calculated comedy. Taken with those grains of salt, "Super Size Me" goes down easy and leaves a pleasant aftertaste. It rates as a 7.5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 21, 2004 / Posted May 7, 2004


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