movie film review | chris tookey

Super Size Me

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  Super Size Me Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
7.42 /10
Morgan Spurlock (pictured), Ronald McDonald, Dr. Daryl Isaacs
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Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
Written by: Morgan Spurlock

Released: 2004
Origin: US
Length: 96

Super Size Me is one of those new-style, flippant-sounding, polemical documentaries in the Michael Moore mode - which made me fear the worst. But though it’s being marketed as trashy, disposable entertainment starring a man with a mouthful of French fries, it’s really a fine example of healthy, nutritious film-making.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Famously, it’s about a man who spent a month eating and drinking only from McDonalds, with alarming consequences for his health. Now, the truth is that a diet of rich French food in wonderful sauces wouldn’t be too good for one’s insides either. And the occasional visit to a McDonald’s would be fine, as part of a balanced diet.

But there’s more to Morgan Spurlock (pictured) than a Jackass-style practical joke on his own intestines. By showing us in revolting detail what goes into fast food – fat, grease, salt, sugar and don’t even ask what goes into chicken nuggets – he is the first director successfully to use gross-out humour as aversion therapy.

His documentary is also seriously disturbing - especially when he is producing evidence of just how dominant fast food is in American culinary culture. At one point, for example, he is showing pictures of famous men to little children. None is able to recognise Jesus Christ. Some are able to identify George Washington. Every one of them can recognise the clown figure of Ronald McDonald.

However, Spurlock has bigger fish to fry than McDonald’s, and it’s easy to see why his film has had the whole of the fast food industry running scared. Spurlock’s beef is not with McDonald’s. but with fast food in general. He has cleverly used his own experience as a human-interest peg on which to hang a scathing, well researched and elegantly phrased analysis of the way too many of us eat now.

The really startling moments in this documentary come not from watching Spurlock’s waistline bulge or his liver turn to pate, but from the talking heads of experts who otherwise would never be able to reach a wide public. They have highly revealing things to say about current rates of obesity and their side effects.

Whereas Michael Moore’s documentaries are junk cinema, packaged without principle and designed to be swallowed easily by those in search of a quick and easy fix of self-righteousness, Super Size Me is a rich, satisfying banquet of crusading, investigative journalism.

Whereas Michael Moore’s “facts” don’t stand up to scrutiny, Spurlock’s are well researched and shocking in their implications. And unlike Moore, Spurlock is not content to look for a few likely scapegoats and humiliate them.

Although he follows the Moore template in trying to interview someone at the top of McDonalds, his attack is really aimed at the fast food culture as a whole, and – most tellingly – at the organisations which schools are allowing to provide unhealthy, low-quality meals, thus conditioning a generation of children to over-eat harmful foods from an early age. I can’t recall a more effective indictment of bureaucratic irresponsibility and corporate greed.

Super Size Me is funny and timely. It utters warnings that a lot of extremely well-paid people and powerful interests would like us not to hear. The number of feature-length documentaries that could instantly improve your life and, perhaps more importantly, the lives of your children can be counted on one finger of one hand. This is it.

“The film is slick, well made and yes, somewhat annoyingly, doesn't portray McDonald's in the most favourable light. And yet what we do agree with is its core argument - that if you eat too much and do too little, it's bad for you. What we don't agree with is the idea that eating at McDonald's is bad for you."

(McDonald’s advertisement)

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