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Monday, September 3, 2007

SUPER SIZE ME (2004) - Morgan Spurlock

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that fast food doesn't exactly fit in as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Yet it seems that, despite various news reports, advertisements and, well, common sense, some people still consume large quantities of quick, easy, hideously unhealthy food. Hell, I'm as guilty as anyone of occasionally indulging in a quarter pounder with cheese. In 2004, documentary film maker Morgan Spurlock undertook an experiment to see just how detrimental to a person's health a 30-day diet of only McDonald's food would be. Cutting out all food except that purchased at McDonald's, Spurlock would test the effects of this diet on his body and document the journey in Super Size Me.

At the beginning of Super Size Me, Spurlock enlists the help of three doctors who will test the effects of his crazy diet on his body. His first group of tests prove that he is in very good health. His cholesterol, body fat and blood tests all prove that he is a man without much to worry about when it comes to health. Spurlock eats one last healthy meal, cooked by his vegan girlfriend, and begins his grand experiment. He sets himself a few rules to stick to during the experiment. He must eat all items on the McDonald's menu at least once during the 30 days. He must eat three McDonald's meals a day. And whenever he is offered, he must accept the 'Super Size' option. But while Spurlock enjoys the immediate effects of the McDonald's only diet, as the experiment progresses, it's effects begin to take their toll on his mind and body.

Super Size Me was a hit at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and allegedly caused McDonald's to become a lot more health conscious. It's easy to see why having witnessed the effects of Spurlock's self-destructive and crazy diet. While it would be very far fetched to believe that anybody would actually have a diet that only consisted of McDonald's food, there are a great many people who eat in McDonald's many times in the week. This is something the Spurlock points out himself in the movie, and it's this one point that sums up his approach to the film. Spurlock never comes across as preachy or holier than thou in the film. He puts himself in the firing line. He's the guinea pig. He never attacks or approaches his targets aggressively. While he does have points to make, he makes them even handedly. It's an approach that is different than Michael Moore's, who's approach always seems more aggressive.

Spurlock intercuts his personal story with a series of talking heads, experts who give us the facts and figures when it comes to the problem of obesity in the United States. The corporations (who, again are the evil overlords, but then, they're behind everything, aren't they?) target the population in school, before the kids can decide for themselves what is healthy. Getting them at this age sets them up as customers for life. It's an alarming idea and while the schools in this country, at least, don't approach childrens' nutrition in the same manner as the States, you do wonder how long before this becomes standard practice here. One thing that I'm sure of, is that fast food will be a rare treat in my own kids' diets. Spurlock's wit helps keep you interested and entertained. While facts and figures can get monotonous after a while, Spurlock's film making ensures the film doesn't become boring. A very interesting documentary with a message all of us can learn from.


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