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Nota Bene: The standard spoiler disclaimers for any movie-related node apply, including those about spoilers. This being a factual documentary at heart, there aren't any plot points that can be spoiled by this writeup.

Super Size Me is Bowling for Columbine meets Fast Food Nation. It is an interesting, irreverent and at times shocking documentary about how McDonald's and other fast food restaurants are major contributors to the biggest public health issue of late in the U.S., obesity. The central theme of the movie is the month-long McDonald's-only diet, upon which its creator, Morgan Spurlock, embarks. After being pronounced a man of above average fitness by a personal trainer and being reassured of his excellent general health by three doctors at the start of the movie, Morgan gains 25 pounds, 60 cholesterol points and is subject to mood swings, chest pain and slight impotence a month later.

The rules of Morgan's diet were simple. He could only consume products available at a McDonald's "restaurant", including bottled water. Whereas he couldn't ask for super-sized portions, he would have to accept them, if offered by a McDonald's associate. Over the course of the documentary, he was offered super-size portions nine times.

Morgan's three doctors only foresaw a gain in blood cholesterol before he embarked upon his month-long diet. On day 21 of his diet, all three doctors suggested he discontinue the diet because his liver was turning into pate from the high-fat diet and his cardiovascular indicators were far from optimal. However, he persisted for nine more days and fulfilled his stated mission. By the end of his project, he had eaten as much fast food in a month as nutrionists recommend people eat in eight years.

The movie feels a lot like Michael Moore's documentary about America's guns -- informative and sometimes shocking commentary, accompanied with many interviews of common people, all centered around a main theme. Morgan Spurlock is originally from West Virginia, the 3rd most obese state in the U.S., just like Moore is from Michigan, a fairly gun-crazy state by his own description. There are some gross-out moments in the movie, such as when the camera focuses on Morgan's vomit after a heavy McDonald's meal. The film also includes some nice miscellaneous touches, such as appearances by his vegan-chef girlfriend and interviews, where most people off the street don't know what a calorie is. Repeated requests for an interview with the high-ups at McDonald's are refused. In general though, the film is a lot less abrasive than Bowling for Columbine, with Spurlock seeking to shove a lot less down the audience's throat compared to Moore.

H'okay, so I watched, like, this documentary today, y'see, and it was about this fella who ate at McDo like three meals a day, y'see. He called 'em square meals, but all his bloody meals were like round. Like burgers, y'see. See what I did then? Wasn't that clever? Hah - guess you hadn't expected that kind of cleverness in an E2 writeup, did ya? Hah.


Erm. Yes. Exactly... That was the impression I was left with after watching mr Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me.

In the movie, he decides to find out what happens to you if you eat at McDonalds three meals a day, for a whole month. The premise is simple: He can only buy stuff over the counter at McDonalds (i.e no vitamins etc), and if they ask him if he wants to supersize his meal, he has to accept. The month is February, the place is the US of A, and I am sure people had worse ideas in America in February of 2002.

However, most people don't film their silly ideas.

And those who do mostly don't bother securing a distribution deal in order to let his vegan chef girlfriend tell the world that yes, she reckons that him eating fast-food has resulted in him having less energy, so she has to go on top when they have sex, and no, his stiffy isn't quite as energetic as it used to be.

Basically, this is a two hour movie punctuating the absurdly obvious: Yes, fast-food is bad for you. You cannot sustain yourself on eating only sugar and fat and cholesterol-ridden dust-monkeys.

The main question that pops to mind, is who did mr Spurlock make this film for? Sure, it is an interesting experiment, and it is a clever move to aim the big guns at the fast-food industry: Michael Moore's films are controversial because it was possible to argue a counter-point. Nobody in their right mind is going to argue against Spurlock's storytelling nor his message: Fast-food bad. Green stuff and exercise good. He may as well have made a campaign film against cancer. Or about smoking. Or about HIV. Everybody knows it's there, and nobody is going to argue that lighting up, working in radiation-smitten environments, or shagging everything that moves without any form of protection is going to improve your life in any way.

Don't get me wrong. The film is a relatively solid (if very long and at times slow) piece of documentary film-making. It even makes a couple of good points, and makes the audience giggle more than once throughout. What it fails to do - in an all-round spectacular matter - is to actually teach you anything that isn't common knowledge about fast-food or the fast-food industry.

Allow me to summarise the film for you:

Want my advice? Take the £4 you would spend on the film, buy some vegetarian food at your local vegetarian restaurant. Then go to the library and check out Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation (also see the very good review on Fast Food Nation here on E2, of course). Lots more facts. Lots less fluff.

And it's good for you.


Catchpole says re Super Size Me : the point about the film it is has led McDonalds to abandon the Supersize meal, and to intorudce a range of so-called healthier options. Would this have happened without Spurlock's film? This is a film that has achieved change - something that Michael Moore's works haven't quite managed.

SharQ says re Super Size Me: That is true, but I think it is still important to draw a line between quality and archievement. The film has undoubtedly had an impact on the non-reading masses of people who have watched the film (which is a good thing), but I am writing for an educated audience here - namely E2 noders. Most of the people I know here on E2 would have very little benefit from watching the film, and a lot from reading Fast Food Nation.


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