Super Size Me (2004) / Documentary
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, sexual references, drug references, and a graphic medical procedure
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Morgan Spurlock, Alexandra Jamieson, Bridget Bennett, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, Dr. Daryl Isaacs, Dr. Stephen Siegel, Don Gorske
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Screenplay: Morgan Spurlock
Morgan Spurlock sat on his momís couch one Thanksgiving and saw a well-publicized news report about two girls who were suing fast food giant McDonalds for their obesity and health problems. At first glance, these sorts of suits seem completely ridiculous and unfounded. Of course eating mass quantities of fast food isnít good for you! Itís mostly fat-laden, greasy, and filled with some of the cheapest ingredients available. Spurlock initially agreed, but after thinking about it a bit, decided there might be some reason to be alarmed. McDonalds and the makes of unhealthy snacks spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year trying to hook kids into the junk food way of life, making the United States the fattest nation on Earth, and the increases in obesity in the last 2 decades alone have skyrocketed.
So Spurlock decided to put his film degree to use and make a documentary to see just what kinds of damage eating fast food can do to the human body, as well as see what a stranglehold on the American public these corporations have. He targets the biggest of them all, McDonalds, and limits himself to eating nothing but food from the Golden Arches for 30 days -- breakfast, lunch and dinner. He first gets a physical to determine his health status, and monitors the changes in his body as the experiment progresses. Along with a decrease in his exercise, Spurlock finds that the fast food way of life is wrought with weight gain, and gives him headaches, nausea, and actually endangers some of his bodyís vital organs.
Yes, itís not a very scientific way to conduct an experiment, and Spurlock clearly wants very badly to have issues and problems for the sake of having something to make a movie about. In fact, you could do many such documentaries about eating or drinking the same things for 30 days and come up with unhealthy results (Gee, water is supposedly healthy, so lets keep drinking it until we drown and see it's a deadly killer!) However, he also wisely looks beyond the experiment at how hard it is for the American public to find out information about what kinds of things they are eating at McDonalds, such as the lack of available nutritional content brochures. Spurlock also gives a lot of information about the dangers of obesity in the country, and how major corporations throw money at schools to ensure that their products are being given to young children, even at the cost of their health.
Super Size Me has dark subject matter, but credit Spurlock for taking this very serious issue and making it an engaging and quite entertaining experience, while also offering a good deal of education to go along with it. Itís clear that Spurlock is on a mission, and in doing so, change has been effected, which is the true mark of success for a scathing documentary. Within weeks of the filmís debut at Sundance, McDonalds pushed forward a new kind of happy meal for health conscious eaters, the Adult Happy Meal.
Itís hard not to think about this film after seeing it, especially as you pass a McDonalds. It ingrains itself in your psyche and makes you really question just what kinds of things you are putting in your body, and how many of the unhealthy feelings you might have might be a result of bad eating choices. For this reason, above and beyond just being entertaining and informative, Super Size Me ranks as one of the better films of 2004, and will probably significantly change the diet of tens of thousands of people across the country.
©2004 Vince Leo