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A review of Super Size Me

click to enlarge Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock faces off against McDonalds.
  • Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock faces off against McDonalds.

*Super Size Me (NR)
Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn Films

The problem with Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me is not that its argument is fatuous. There's been a lot of press on this film; so, yes, we're talking about the guy who films himself eating nothing but McDonald's for an entire month. With so much publicity, most of it positive, the problem with Super Size Me is that it's not playing in Colorado Springs.

Talk to most marketers and they'll tell you that people just won't see documentaries. No stars, no production values, no box office -- or so goes their logic. Not being possessed of any marketing pedigree this critic can only intuitively bark: bullcrap!

You can't find a more mainstream film than Super Size Me and it's a shame that something so accessible and funny must remain ghettoized in the art house because publicity professionals can't do their jobs. While Super Size Me is overtly political, taking aim against the food industry in general and McDonalds in particular, it's also about something every American has a relationship with: fast food. But more than its subject matter, there's a freak-show element to Spurlock's endeavor that's practically culled from the pages of reality television. Eating McDonald's for three square meals a day, not exercising, Spurlock, a 32-year-old New Yorker, sacrifices his gastrointestinal well-being for our own amusement.

Of course, Super Size Me is not merely about the predictable deterioration of its director's health, it also investigates the fast-food industry. Fans of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation might not find a lot of the information unleashed by talking heads (nutritionists, ex-Surgeon General David Satcher, food industry PR hacks, etc.) to be new.

Most Americans seem to know that fast food is not good for us, but not only do we still eat it, we're willing to allow our children to be pied by the piper that is Ronald McDonald in all his forms: happy meal toys, elaborate indoor play areas and so on. In one amusing episode, Spurlock shows a handful of first-graders pictures of George Washington, Jesus Christ and Ronald McDonald.

Any guess as to whose mug the kids can all agree on?

Those worshipping at the church of personal responsibility will maintain that Spurlock's approach is bogus: Even fast food's most fervent disciples don't eat it for every meal. And if they do, well, that's their problem. Of course, they're right. Placing the blame for all our nutritional woes on McDonald's doorstep is as absurd as Spurlock's diet. But Super Size Me is not merely an indictment of one corporation, but an entire culture's obsession with "big." Spurlock does a great job of cataloging the size rise, the fact that McDonald's once had one size for fries: small. Now all fast-food outlets peddle cannon barrel-sized big gulps because Americans like to feel like they're getting more bang for their buck.

The bang, however, is in our skyrocketing obesity and its accompanying diseases: diabetes, heart disease and so on.

While muckrakers like Spurlock are often toasted as populist heroes, real change will come from visionary marketers. Perhaps when they've figured out how to make a healthy Happy Meal, these would-be heroes can bring an entertaining documentary film to Colorado Springs theaters.

-- John Dicker

Playing at the Mayan in Denver. Further information was not available at press time. Please call your favorite theater for information.

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