Eric D. Snider

Super Size Me (documentary)

Movie Review

Super Size Me (documentary)

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: A

Released: May 7, 2004

 

Directed by:

Cast:

Morgan Spurlock has Michael Moore's provocateur mentality, sharp sense of humor and mischievous good nature, without Moore's obnoxiousness or unsightly slovenliness.

It is that last point, in fact, that is the focus of "Super Size Me," Spurlock's funny, surprising and thoroughly effective documentary about America's unhealthy love affair with fast food.

The star of the film is Spurlock himself, a likable West Virginia native now living in New York with his vegan girlfriend. The film is an experiment: What would happen if you ate nothing but McDonald's food, three meals a day, for an entire month?

Spurlock does just this. His rules are that he must eat three meals a day, he can ONLY eat food from the McDonald's menu (luckily, many of them sell bottled water), he must super-size when asked, and he must eat everything on the menu at least once.

The camera follows him through his 30-day journey, during which he busies himself with research. He interviews the son of Robbins (as in Baskin-Robbins), who is now a health expert after having grown up on ice cream and feeling sick all the time. He investigates junk food in public schools, including the USDA-provided school lunches, which Spurlock discovers are nearly as unhealthy as letting kids choose items from vending machines. He goes to Texas, home to six of the nation's 20 fattest cities.

Oh, and he makes repeated phone calls to McDonald's headquarters to get their side of the story for the film. His calls are not returned.

The most entertaining highlights, though, are of Spurlock eating, and trying to eat, and wishing he could stop eating, McDonald's food. We track his progress, his weight gain, his inability to walk up stairs easily, and his girlfriend reports on the sexual side effects. He learns the food has an addictive effect on him, and his team of doctors -- who checked him out beforehand and pronounced him in fantastic health -- are positively STUNNED at the effects his insane diet produces. "I knew it would be unhealthy," one of them says. "But this...."

What could have been just an anti-fast food screed is instead a remarkably watchable, high-spirited, persuasive film that is as entertaining as it is alarming. It's packed with faceless statistics about the fattening of America, but it's packed with human interest, too, as Spurlock becomes a real figure for us to root for and worry over.

No one loves fast food more than I do. I expected the film to have the opposite of its intended effect, i.e., that it would make me hungry to go eat some McDonald's food. Instead, I came out of wanting to skip fast food forever. The feeling wore off in a day or so, of course, but that it changed my attitude even for a while is a testament to the power of good filmmaking.

Grade: A

Rated PG-13, some profanity, some sexual dialogue, brief partial nudity

1 hr., 38 min.

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This item has 7 comments

  1. AWOL says:

    I thought the most disturbing part in this movie was when they let all the food mold over time and after everything else had rotted into nothing recognizable the McDonald's fries looked as fresh as the day they were made... (perhaps McDonald's has discovered the fountain of youth)

  2. John Doe says:

    I think it's funny that everybody I know who saw this had the same reaction: they swore never to eat McD's food again, only to break that vow a few weeks later. I can boast that I haven't had McD's food for years and it has nothing to do with health; it's because I'm both cheap and lazy. The food is expensive when you consider how little you get and it takes effort to walk there (I have no car).

    I do think the premise of the documentary is kinda deceptive. I think eating anything for a month would have similar effects unless it was rather healthy. What if I only ate pizza for a month? Or Frosted Flakes? I bet if you ate nothing but Olive Garden (or any restaurant) for a month, you'd get similar results. Processed foods from a box or from a restaurant both tend to be rather unhealty. So while it's popular to bash McD's, I don't know that it's really fair.

  3. cinncinnatus says:

    Actually, watching the movie made me crave a Big Mac and we went right to McDonald's as soon as we were done watching the movie.

  4. Ampersand says:

    Am I the only one who actually kinda-sorta stuck to the vow to never eat McDonald's again? I've only eaten there maybe twice since I saw "Super Size Me" a year ago, and I've definitely eaten less fast food in general.

    As for the complaint that McDonald's is being unfairly singled out, I guess that's what they get for being the most high-profile fast food restaurant.

  5. britches says:

    i work at mcdonalds and let me tell you. it's scary. just do me a favor and don't eat there. it'll help me sleep better at night. lol. but seriously, there are people who go there daily and can bearly fit through the door. They are killing themselves slowly. They get tired walking from the door to front counter. i would never eat there. workers casually joke around saying that they are "mcmammoths," which may seem funny; however, it's the sad truth. They have a disgusting addiction.

  6. doogie says:

    very good documentary. i was impressed that Spurlock would risk his good health to see exactly what would what would happen to his body while eating McDonald's three times a day for a month. that's some true dedication. but what surprised me the most in the doc was the interview with Don Gorske, the 50-year-old Wisconsin man who had eaten 19,000 Big Macs in over 30 years. one would have expected the guy to be morbidly obese, yet he was really skinny and in good shape and health. what could have explained that? a really good metabolism?

  7. Kamis says:

    I'd be interested in seeing a review of "Fat Head", which was a response to Super Size Me, where a guy said, "I'm going to go on a fast-food diet for a month and lose weight ... I'll stay under 2000 calories a day and use the premise, 'I have a functioning brain.'" Kinda dry humor (I think he said he's a programmer) ... and it was fun watching the two movies together.

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