Movie Review: Super Size MePosted: December 15, 2012
Morgan Spurlock is a pretty smart guy, and shows some guts in this flick. Knowing that a film about the consequences of eating fast food might be a tough sell Spurlock hit on the hook that would win his film a lot of common inches. Spurlock, a relatively healthy dude decided that for 30 days he would survive only on the products available from McDonald, and document the effect it had on him.
The rules he set for himself were simple:
- He had to eat 3 meals a day from beneath the golden arches
- If offered he had to accept the “super size” option (hence the movie’s title)
- He couldn’t eat from anywhere else at all
- Over the course of the month he had to eat every item on the menu (even fillet-o-fish, which in all my years I’ve never seen or heard of anybody ordering)
- He couldn’t try to cancel it out with exercise and could only do what the average USA citizen would do, around 5000 paces a day.
Now, before we kick off, I want to say that I’m not a member of the Ronald bashing crew. I may not be a fan of Maccy D’s, never have been really, even when I was a full on chubster, in fact I could count the times I’ve had food from McDonalds in the last 5 years on my fingers, and still have a few left over.
But, I’m not part of that massively anti-McDonalds movement. Sure I’m dubious of their marketing towards kids and the health consequences of their food, but at the end of the day my view is that it comes down to personal responsibility. If you’re an adult and you get massively obese from eating tons of junk food then that’s on you, and if your kids get sick because of poor nutrition that’s on you as a parent.
This whole issue is brought up in the movie, which was made around about the time there was a big lawsuit going on in the States where two customers were suing Ronald and co. for making them fat, and Spurlock does investigate this claim and touch on the personal responsibility vs corporate responsibility angle.
This is one of the movie’s strengths, in that while it mainly follows Spurlock along his month and the personal impact of the challenge, it does give the filmmaker the opportunity to probe deeper into America’s relationship with food and fast food in particular. He investigates how it’s marketed towards kids and the massive brand recognition that the company has, including a scene where he shows a bunch of kids photos of historical figures and Ronald McDonald turns out to be the most recognizable.
Then there are issues like the nutritional benefits of the food which leads on to the food that children in the US are being provided with, which makes for some depressing viewing.
The globalization aspect isn’t played up too much but the sheer number of McDonalds “restaurants” is staggering, with there being around 4 per square mile in New York, and that 46 million customers pass under the giant M every day. There’s even a McDonalds in a hospital.
But the main draw is that central premise- what would happen if you only ate McDonalds for a month.
The results ain’t pretty. Spurlock starts off fairly confident but 2 days in he struggles with his first Super Size meal, complaining of a “McStomachAche” and being sick.
Obviously he gains weight over the course of the month, although the amount, 24.5 lbs (almost 2 stone!) is staggering, but the big shock for me was seeing the addiction like symptoms he went through- feeling depressed and run down until he got his fix. I’ve had similar things with caffeine addiction, but these reactions were insane and makes you worry about the kids who are getting regular doses of this junk. There’s a really cool sequence where clips from McDonalds ads are edited together and soundtracked by Curtis Mayfield’s awesome “Pusherman”.
Spurlock rapidly deteriorates, feeling lethargic and depressed between fixes, growing tired and frustrated of the experiment and discovering the joys of fast food dining (the hair he finds in the food is pretty repugnant). Also, his sex drive evaporates, which is probably a good thing because if you’re eating that many burgers you’re probably not going to be offered that much sex. Trust me, us big blokes aren’t fighting potential partners off with a stick.
Throughout Spurlock is a charming, engaging presence at the centre. He’s funny and smart and his interviews with various McD fans and related figures are well done. Yes, there are a few gimmicky bits, but that’s the nature of the documentary genre nowadays and he’s far more laid back and less in-your-face judgmental than Michael Moore.
You can still see why McDonalds hated this movie, because the reaction to Spurlock’s declining health are astonishing. The doctors he visits, who thought the results would be fairly minor are horrified by some of the effect, particularly Spurlock suffering heart palpitations and one doctor advises him to pull the plug early, comparing him to the main character in Leaving Las Vegas who tries to destroy himself with booze.
Its not as gross as I’d feared, but its still more than enough to get me to swear to any higher power you can think of: I’m never eating a McDonalds again.
Unless they bring back the Mars milkshakes, because those were immense.
The film ends on a fairly positive note with Spurlock managing to shed the weight he put on thanks to a detox diet created by his vegan girlfriend, and McDs scrapping their Super Size option, thus protecting the weak willed from themselves.
Verdict: An interesting look into the effects of junk food to the body and the fast food industry in modern society, aided by a good high concept approach and a charming and entertaining narrator/subject in Spurlock. 7/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.