Super Size Me Review

by Harvey S. Karten (harveycritic AT cs DOT com)
April 29th, 2004

SUPER SIZE ME

Reviewed by: Harvey S. Karten
Grade: A-
Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn Films
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
Cast: Morgan Spurlock, Ronald McDonald, Dr. Daryl Isaacs, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, Dr. Stephen Siegel, Bridget Bennett, Eric Rowley, Alexandra Jamieson, Dr. David Satcher, John Banzhaf, III, John Robbins, Dr. Kelly Brownell, Marion Nestle, Lisa Young, Don Gorske, Dr. William Klish, Sec. Tommy Thompson, Bruce
Howlett
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 4/28/04

    Sixty percent of adult Americans are overweight, making our country the fattest on the globe. While some Americans were always overweight, the problem has ballooned during the past twenty years, which makes one wonder: If we were just as inactive in 1984 as we are today and if junk food was around for the past score of years as well, what's different about contemporary times? Is the unfortunate change related to the custom of super-sizing orders? After all, McDonald's is patronized daily by one out of every four Americans. "Super Size Me"'s impresario recently went on a quest to discover the reasons for our epidemic of plenty. If you guest that a combination of too many calories and too little exercise has something to do with the problem, you're on target. What's riveting here, though, is not the predictable answers but the entertaining way that the film-maker lets us into the loop.
    If this writer-director-chief actor of "Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock, reminds you of Michael Moore, you're probably in good company. Spurlock's debut film, shot with hand-held cameras in twenty cities from California to the New York island, is brimming over with spontaneous performances, clever and fast-moving animation, and a star who is funny, passionate about his cause, and eager to give us the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. (Oops, scratch the sugar. That's virtually a no-no in the minds of several participants in this hugely entertaining nonfiction piece.) You don't wonder that no major executive from McDonald's was willing to grant Spurlock an interview, much less return his phone calls, as he hammers away at America's favorite fast-food joint by using himself as a 6-foot 2 laboratory rat.

    By going to an extreme an intemperate move possibly indulged in by a sizeable minority of Mickey D's cheerleading fressers Spurlock aims to show just how bad a diet of burgers, fries, and shakes can be, particularly when consumed in super- sized portions such as the company's 42-ounce Coke and extra large packet of fries. The film-maker agrees to eat three meals a day at McDonald's, to sample everything on the menu for a 30-day period, and to order super-sized portions each the dishes are suggested.

    Limiting the deadening documentary template talking-heads format that makes sure mainstream audiences will flock instead to action-adventure thrillers, Spurlock conducts spontaneous mini-interviews with folks on the street of all ages, saving the three-minute sessions for exchanging ideas with doctors, nurses, nutritionists, school officials and a physiologist. At least one doc suggests that he throw in the towel by the eighteenth day, as by this time Spurlock had been nauseated (we see close-up the product of his spurned food on the street), been afflicted with eye-ball busting migraines, and gained no small number of pounds ultimately logging in a final weight of seventeen pounds more than he started with 30 days earlier. His cholesterol skyrocketed from a healthy 160 to over 240, his blood pressure zoomed, and his liver moaned in toxic pain. Ironically, his girlfriend is a vegan chef, one who states that she would not mind sitting occasionally with her man at a Mickey D's as long as she did not have to partake of the "nourishment."
    Spurlock never convinces us that fast-food junk food being a better name since, after all, carrots can be juiced in seconds and cheese-reduced pizza with broccoli can be served just as fast as burgers is THE cause of weight problems including obesity. However even if we discount all the put-downs of McDonald's whose fare, to be fair, Spurlock finds
delicious there's little question that the more we learn about food via an unending avalanche of self-help books and magazines, the more we are pushed to gobble anti-oxidants, cut carbs, go macrobiotic, try starvation diets the more we're getting bigger and bigger and bigger each year. Just what is going on? Surely there are people who live nowhere near a McDonald's, a KFC, a Wendy's, a Popeye who are fat as
houses!

    Notwithstanding the unscientific methodology of Spurlock's quest, and regardless of how we may dismiss his findings as unsupported by hard evidence, we'll probably agree on one thing. Michael Moore, move over. This guy know how to make a documentary that's rapidly paced, loaded with spontaneity, funny, caustic, and, well, Moore-ish is how we can best describe the project though one wishes only that he could have used real film to avoid the cinema-verite blurs that cross the screen throughout the film's 98 exciting minutes.

Not Rated. 98 minutes.(c) 2004 by Harvey Karten at
Harveycritic@cs.com

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