Super Size Me

Reviewed By Brian McKay
Posted 05/10/04 14:50:18

"Attention all Fat-Asses: Your wake-up call has arrived"
5 stars (Awesome)

We Americans are a nation of fat-asses -- and being 20-30 pounds over my target body weight, I guess I'd have to lump myself in with that statement. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock gets to the bottom of why our bottoms are getting so big, but goes the extra mile by submitting himself as the guinea pig in an experiment that even the Nazis wouldn't have been evil enough to force on someone: the consumption of only McDonald's products for a straight month.

Hell, we all know McDonald's is bad for you, right? Even a doughy stoner like me knows better than to eat there ... well, except maybe for the occasional pancake platter (those are some good-ass pancakes!). However, it usually requires some dire circumstances before I will subject myself to anything on Mickey-D's post-11 a.m. menu. Yet I do frequent Arby's, Wendy's, and Taco Bell, and who the hell am I fooling by thinking those are any better?

And that's exactly the point Spurlock is trying to make. Super-Size Me isn't just an attack on the McDonald's corporation. McDonald's is simply the focal point, since it is such a well-known and prominent example of corporate profit taking precedence over health-consciousness. The film is a much deeper indictment of the causes for America's upward trend of obesity.

When he begins the little experiment, Spurlock gets checked out by a pair of doctors and a nutritional expert. His health is pretty much perfect: low body fat, low cholesterol, exact target weight, no smoking or drinking. Plus his girlfriend Alex is a vegan chef, so you know he's eating right. Well, that's all about to change.

Spurlock scarfs down everything on the McDonald's menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After an initial bout of vomiting, he not only gets used to eating McDonald's food, but grows addicted to it! He gets fatter, has no energy, is subject to inexplicable bouts of depression (unless he eats more McDonald's), and as Alex plainly points out, he ain't what he used to be in the sack. His cholesterol levels shoot thorugh the roof, and he damn near suffers renal failure. Food, folks, and fun, indeed!

But while he subjects himself to the rigors of a 5,000-calorie-a-day diet, he also talks to a number of professors, doctors, dieticians, and other health experts in an attempt to determine why we are such an unhealthy nation. Ironically, several of these experts interviewed are also fat-asses, which shows more than anything else in the film just how dire the situation has become. Causes range from sedentary lifestyles and the cheap and easy convenience of fast food, to big food corporations' lobbying government interests while spending billions on marketing to lure in the uninformed (people interviewed in front of the White House knew the "Two all-beef patty" song better than the Pledge of Allegiance, for Christ's sake!) -- with particular focus on children and teens. Just as the cigarette companies have been known to do, corporations like McDonald's aim on getting the teens and young 'uns in the door early, in a bid to create successive generations of people it appropriately describes at the corporate level as "Heavy Users" (those who eat McDonald's on a weekly basis, if not more often).

But far from just presenting a litany of facts, Spurlock takes a Michael Moore approach to filmmaking by using humor and panache. The montage of Ronald McDonald commercials played to the song "I'm your pusher-man", or the use of Queen's "Fat-Bottom Girls" over the opening credits, are just a couple of examples of the damn near brilliant comedic touches Spurlock uses. However, unlike Moore, Spurlock stays more focused on getting across facts rather than over-indulging in sneak attacks and "spin". In fact, he makes dozens of phone calls in an attempt to interview a McDonald's CEO, while Moore would have probably just shown up in the lobby with a camera crew. The fact that he doesn't get the interview and is brushed off after all of his efforts is somehow more damning than just having an annoyed PR person show up at the reception area to appease him (which is what any company would do in that circumstance, guilty or not -- nobody likes to be bullied). Obviously, however, nobody from McDonald's was terribly anxious to address the issues brought up in this film.

It's rare that a film has any kind of profound, lasting effect on me. But let me tell you something -- right after I left the theater, I drove past Krispy Kreme and the "HOT" light was on. I kept right on driving past it and headed straight for the produce section. I'm off the fast food, folks -- for reals. If you're a fat-ass like me, or even one of these skinny-ass people who think they can eat anything they like without consequence, you need to see SUPER-SIZE ME, and then just keep on driving past that drive-thru. Now Morgan needs to work on the sequel, "DOWNSIZE ME", where he shows just how he detoxed from a month-long binge of sugar, grease, and fat.

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