Super Size Me
Directed by Morgan Spurlock. (2004, NR, 96 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 14, 2004
Here’s but a small sampling from the reams of alarming statistics served up in Morgan Spurlock’s incendiary documentary about our fast food nation: Every day, one in four Americans visits a fast food restaurant. Obesity is poised to overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in our nation. Children are better at recognizing the brand image of Ronald McDonald than they are at identifying the president. (That last one, perhaps, is a blessing in disguise; despite Super Size Me’s considerable evidence against him, at this point I’d sooner put my trust in Mickey D’s resident clown than in the one cooling his heels in office.) Of course, we all already know that fast food is bad for us. What makes Spurlock’s film so shocking is its comprehensive detailing of just how bad it really is. That by itself could have made for a yawningly educational Dateline-like piece – the film’s thesis is a rather dry-sounding examination of "where corporate responsibility ends and personal responsibility begins" – but Spurlock’s methodology sends Super Size Me into far more ingenious, even delirious ground. Inspired by the lawsuit of two grossly obese teenage girls, in which the judge ruled that they hadn’t proved a steady McDiet was ultimately deleterious to their health, Spurlock set out to prove just that. With an impish grin, he decides to consume nothing but McDonald’s menu three times a day, every day, for 30 days straight, and record the effects for his camera. The effects are pretty awful: His initial euphoria at living out every 8-year-old’s dream of all Big Macs, all the time, quickly gives way to leadenness of body and spirit. Spurlock’s got a sense of humor about the whole thing – just try not to laugh as he candidly describes the "McSweats" and the "McTwitches" his body starts to experience after wolfing down a Double Quarter-Pounder With Cheese and Super-Sized fries – but the sight of him losing his battle to keep down the burger (and consequently losing his lunch in the restaurant’s parking lot) is even more startling, more of a "holy shit" moment, than the barrage of statistics. And that’s only day three. The monthlong McDonald's binge basically wrecks his body: His team of doctors and nutritionists is unsettled by the weight gain (more than 20 pounds) and aghast at the diet’s "pickling" effect on Spurlock’s liver, while his girlfriend (a vegan chef, no less) is disappointed by his declining sexual performance. Although Super Size Me benefits from a number of interviews with nutritionists, lobbyists, lawyers, and the like, the film inevitably (but not unenjoyably) is dominated by Spurlock, who offers his sober-minded statistics and cheeky asides without ever devolving into an off-putting Michael Moore-like moralizing, and the film’s informative but not condescending approach, sprinkled with cartoon graphics and a catchy soundtrack, should make it a fun watch for schoolchildren, for whom the film should be required viewing. Tastes great, and it’s good for you … a revolutionary concept, indeed.