In an experimental documentary, Morgan Spurlock decides expand his experimental mindset to copy the eating habits of America, home to the fattest people in the world. The rules Spurlock imposes upon himself are limited to four areas: He’ll eat all his meals at McDonald’s for 30 days; he’ll limit his exercise and physical activity to less than walking ¼ of a mile everyday; he must eat everything on McDonald’s menu at least once; and, most importantly, if he is asked if he wants his food super-sized, he must say yes.Within a very short period of time, the 174lb Spurlock starts to balloon weight uncontrollably. Even worse, as the month goes on, Spurlock’s doctors have noticed all sorts of abnormalities to his health. Spurlock trudges onward, getting fatter and fatter, sicker and sicker, all while offering a scathing indictment of the fast food industry and America’s eating habits.
OPINION AND ANALYSIS – On the surface, Spurlock’s film looks like a purely gimmicky venture designed to snag some of those entertainment dollars at the expense of McDonald’s good name. Upon closer examination, we see that Spurlock has carefully crafted one of the more unique, experimental documentaries of the last 20 years. If this had been one of those dry PBS FRONTLINE documentaries, it would have been boring and heavy handed, offering dry narration designed to condemn the food/restaurant business from a socialist perspective. In Spurlock’s hands, we get an “everyman’s” attempts to make sense of the utterly insane eating habits of people in America. Because the documentary is made by an individual who we can all relate to (ala Michael Moore), we are not offended by a heavy handed, preachy tone, a common malaise found in many documentaries.
Make no mistake about it, the documentary is the Morgan Spurlock show and the success or failure of it rests on Spurlock’s performance. Since Spurlock has an incredible (yet weird) charisma that appeals to an audience’s sensibilities and sympathies, he makes this documentary work. Under less competent hands, this would have simply been a one note gimmick movie that would have run out of steam within 30 minutes.This is not to say that Spurlock’s film is unbiased in its presentation nor is it always accurate. Spurlock attempts to put a great deal of the blame on the evil marketing campaigns of the food industry and, while there is truth to the notion that marketing will stimulate consumer interest, the ultimate blame lies within people looking to overindulge in fast food while refusing to increase their physical activity level. While the film is always interesting, it does not succeed when it tries to portray the overweight “victims” in a sympathetic light.
After all, these “victims” could all drop 30lbs in six months if they cleaned up their diet and started moving around more.Despite the flaws, the film remains and enjoyably weird sociological indictment of our love affair with food that certainly does not love us back.THE TIE IN – The film ties into the business world in a manner that was more far reaching than people expected, as it resulted in McDonald’s going into full damage control mode and contemplating eliminating Super Sized Meals. Fat Chance. When the controversy blew over, McDonald’s went back to their wicked ways.
However, the film does show how the media can stir a (brief) revolution.CONCLUSION – Spurlock’s documentary is a fun trip down the world of high fructose corn syrup and trans fat that allows up to open our eyes to the danger that such a diet can harm us.