Call filmmaker Morgan Spurlock opportunistic and self-absorbed.
Say that he ignores many issues he says he’ll address in his
new film, “Super Size Me,” and, well, you’d be
pretty accurate. A documentary on the role fast food plays in the
American obesity epidemic, the movie’s primary conceit seems
effective: The healthy Spurlock turns himself into a nutritional
guinea pig by eating nothing but McDonald’s food for 30
days.

“Super Size Me” features all the facts, figures,
interviews and testimonials needed to convince audiences that
American attitudes about food need to change –– but
Spurlock’s slick, MTV-era production and tongue-in-cheek tone
undermine the strength of this evidence, making “Super Size
Me” an ineffective non-exploration of the problems Spurlock
purports to address, more of a bid for notoriety than an attempt at
activism.

The rules are simple: Spurlock must eat only what is sold over
the counter at McDonald’s franchises, three squares a day,
and he has to try everything on the menu at least once. During his
month-long McDiet, Spurlock’s health declines sharply. He
gains 20 pounds, experiences shortness of breath, mood swings,
impotence, and, during the last week of the trial, is seriously at
risk for liver failure. To his credit, he manages to turn his own
body into a science experiment without hogging too much camera time
–– but his smirking influence shows in every other
aspect of “Super Size Me,” from the rapid-fire editing
to the anti-fat (not necessarily anti-fast food) subtext. He barely
touches on the psychological, not just biological, effects of
obesity.

Most of Spurlock’s narration plays over footage of obese
people out on the streets and on beaches, fat asses featured and
their faces digitally blurred. A (skinny) schoolgirl buys two bags
of chips, a soft pretzel and candy from her cafeteria’s lunch
line. One segment features formerly obese Subway spokesperson Jared
Fogel delivering a motivational speech; a fawning,
none-too-svelte-herself mother introduces her obese teen daughter
to Jared. “The world’s not gonna change, you’ve
got to change,” he tells the sullen teen. The girl later
explains that it’s frustrating to hear someone who’s
lost weight tell her that they can do it when she thinks she
can’t –– “I can’t afford to go there
and buy a sandwich every day.” Good God, Morgan, you’ve
made your point: Americans are ignorant when it comes to dietary
health and nutrition.

The problem with this latest indictment of American culture
isn’t that Spurlock forces his own opinion on the viewer
–– besides health examinations and mealtimes, Spurlock
stays behind the camera; it’s easy to forget that his
experiment was the film’s original gimmick. His criticisms of
American attitudes about food are certainly warranted. The problem
is that Spurlock doesn’t have any reason to launch this
tirade against Big Food, and it shows. “Super Size Me”
is a combination of eye-opening statistics and gross-out imagery
–– sort of like a mash-up of Eric Schlosser’s
book Fast Food Nation and MTV’s “Jackass.”
Statistics and explanations lend the appearance of credibility, but
there’s no drive behind Spurlock’s actions.

After seeing this slickly presented, tongue-in-cheek
“indictment” of McDonald’s, how many people will
really think twice before biting into their next burger?
Spurlock’s too-cool faux-commentary and apparent lack of
empathy for his subjects overshadow any good intentions.
(It’s doubtful Spurlock had any when he went ahead with the
project.) Hey Morgan: Get down off your McCross and leave this
argument to the activists who actually give a shit about
people’s welfare, not just their sound bites.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.