SUPER SIZE ME
Review by Michael Jacobson
Audio: Dolby Stereo
Video: Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Hart Sharp Video
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: September 28, 2004
bigger in America.”
Spurlock is the main reason I can’t get Super Size fries at McDonald’s
anymore. I used to want to hit him.
Now, I think I want to thank him.
is, of course, the man who gained fame and notoriety for turning himself into
the ultimate science project in Super Size Me: in the interest of exploring the origins of the current
obesity epidemic in this country, he subjected himself to a McDonald’s only
diet for 30 days. The rules?
Three meals a day, eat at least one of everything on the menu in due
course, and if the server suggested “Super Sizing”, he would do it.
beginning, he had himself checked out by three different doctors and was given a
clean bill of health. Over the
course of his month, he went back for routine checkups. You may think yeah, I already know what would happen to
someone who does what Spurlock did, but you’ll probably be surprised at how
quickly his physical condition deteriorates.
One doctor ends up warning him at about the three week mark that he may
be inflicting irreversible liver damage on himself, and even gives him the
warning signs to look for so he’ll know when to get himself to the emergency
experiment is the heart of a film that examines a growing health problem
worldwide, but especially in the United States. As he ponders the statistics and notes that not only is
obesity the second most prolific preventable cause of death after smoking, he
considers how habits we learn as children and the way fast food companies market
their wares tie in.
of his reason for deciding to make this movie was the then famous lawsuit
against McDonald’s brought on behalf of two morbidly overweight teenage girls.
Ironically, as the film ends, we learn that the judge threw out the suit
on the basis of there being no evidence that McDonald’s food alone causes
health problems like the kind the girls experienced.
He might have reconsidered if he could have gotten a look at Morgan
Spurlock at day 30.
Spurlock’s food challenge plays out, he goes around the nation and looks at
what are kids are being exposed to. With
TV, radio and print ads, the average child gets bombarded with about 10,000 food
ads a year. In schools, they’re
being served pure crap. I can’t
say my school years were filled with the best lunches possible, but I was
totally blown away at what passes for meals today:
chips, candy, Gatorade, fries, pizzas…wow.
And while calorie consumption is going up in schools, physical activity
is on the decline: an unintended
consequence of the No Child Left Behind Act was that some schools decided to
minimize or eliminate recess and phys ed in order to get the kids’ test scores
up. The children are getting smarter and fatter at the same time.
responsibility is a big part of the makeup of your lifestyle, of course, and
Spurlock recognizes that it isn’t all the fast food places’ fault.
He even interviews a guy who has eaten 2-3 Big Macs a day for as long as
he can remember. He looks good and
his cholesterol is about 140…even lower than Morgan’s when he starts out.
at the same time, he rejects McDonald’s stance that nutritionists agree that
an occasional fast food meal can be part of an overall healthy diet.
He interviewed plenty of health experts, and found many who felt fast
food shouldn’t be consumed at ALL.
also considers the effects of the billions spent on marketing every year by the
big food companies. In one segment,
he can’t get a group of people to correctly say the Pledge of Allegiance, but
they know the ingredients to the Big Mac. And
small children couldn’t identify a picture of Jesus Christ, but knew who
Ronald McDonald was. Kids love
McDonald’s because they have playgrounds, clowns, birthday parties and Happy
Meals, but while they’re having fun, they’re setting themselves up with
eating habits that will affect the rest of their lives.
is the kind of movie that doesn’t necessarily tell you things you don’t
already know, but it DOES assemble all the information in a way that makes it
more potent and palatable, and gets you to think about every aspect of an
unhealthy diet at once. Spurlock’s
movie is disturbing to a degree, but also humorous, and well put together not
only with documentary footage, but with clever animations and bits of artwork.
I could have done without two scenes though:
the rectal exam (thankfully blacked out with a rectangle) and the footage
of a gastric bypass operation. Yeek.
it addresses one of our nation’s biggest problems with candor and frankness,
and will undoubtedly serve as a much-needed wake-up call to a country that’s
slowly killing itself with food. For
that reason alone, Super Size Me just might be this millennium’s first
true must-see movie.
digital video footage translated nicely to film and back to DVD, so despite a
relatively low-budget approach, the widescreen transfer serves well with good
colors, crisp images and clean levels of detail.
The art and animation definitely add to the experience.
being a simple stereo mix, the audio is livelier than you would expect, with
plenty of music cues and sound effects making full use of the front stage.
Spoken words are clear throughout; the one scene where background noise
overcomes the dialogue slightly is compensated for with subtitles.
disc starts with an enthusiastic commentary track by Morgan Spurlock and his
girlfriend Alex Jamieson (seen in the film giving him a vegan last supper before
starting his stint and worrying about his health the whole way).
I’ve often said the best commentary tracks are for the small indie
films as opposed to the big money blockbuster, because the filmmakers have more
to say about the kind of things you want to hear about, and this track backs up
my theory splendidly.
are six extra interview segments and four deleted scenes…one shows that in
addition to the garbage Spurlock put in his body during his McDonald’s binge,
he also accumulated 13 bags of actual garbage.
Another is priceless: “The
Smoking Fry” places various McDonald’s foods in glass jars and examines them
over a ten week period to see how they break down naturally.
A little gross, to be sure, but one aspect of the experiment will
absolutely floor you.