Review: Super Size Me

Posted by: Mark McLeod  //  May 21, 2004 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

Okay. I'll admit it. I'm a fast-food junkie. You wouldn't know it by looking at me, but for the purposes of this motion picture film review and because it is in fact true, I'm a fast food junkie. Or as McDonald's calls us, "Heavy Users". I'm a man on the go and usually can be found at a fast food establishment at least 3 times a week, sometimes even more than once a day. So based on those startling facts, you'd think I'd be an overweight young adult suffering from diabetes. Well, for whatever reason, I'm still a scrawny white guy who is certainly not dying or sick due to high cholesterol or blood pressure. Perhaps it's because the Golden Arches is not my venue of choice or maybe, just maybe, I'm not the norm. Regardless of my personal situation, the facts state that America as a nation is getting bigger and bigger and that more and more people are consuming fast food products at an alarming rate.

In his new film Super Size Me, documentarian Morgan Spurlock has chosen to do the unthinkable and eat nothing but McDonald's food for 30 straight days. Aided by a team of 3 doctors (a general practitioner, a cardiologist, and a gastroenterologist) as well as a nutritionist, he embarks on a quest across the country to sample everything McDonald's has to offer. The only rules he sets for himself is that he must try everything on the menu at least once, he can only eat or drink items sold at McDonald's, and that if asked to "Super Size It", he must do just that. Spurlock doesn't overdo it and only eats a standard-sized meal each time, but it still only takes three days for him to start to feel the effects of the all Mickey-D's diet. Before long, he's gained over 25 pounds and by the 3 week mark of his month-long experiment, his doctors are urging him to quit as his health has become so poor that he's liable to suffer long-term damage. Spurlock decides to go on a cross country journey looking at the state of health care and fast food throughout the continental United States. He interviews everyone from Surgeon Generals, to educators and cafeteria workers, to U.S. Attorneys, and even tries repeatedly to get comments from McDonald's themselves. Spurlock tries to paint an argument that the lifestyle lived nowadays combined with the marketing approach of the fast food giants is what's leading to the fattening of America.

Morgan Spurlock's film is not just disturbing in its portrayal of just how sick one individual can get on a McDonald's-only diet, it's also very entertaining and informative as he shows children who can't identify George Washington from George Bush, but know who Ronald McDonald is at a very early age. We see the difference between a school system using all pre-prepared foods and one where fresh offerings are given to the children. We also learn that fries and soda drinks are often the only "Lunch" a student has during a busy school day. These scenarios are mixed with a number of astounding facts about the fast food industry both past and present.

Morgan Spurlock is a name that most people haven't heard before, but after this film will probably become a household name. Spurlock, a veteran of creating programming for MTV, has created an interesting piece of motion picture film making. Although one could argue just how accurate his study is considering some of the conditions and ways things were portrayed, there is no arguing just how entertaining this man's film is and what an exciting on-camera presence he possesses. Spurlock has clearly studied Michael Moore's films and documentary techniques, but unlike Moore, doesn't seem to simply be angry all the time. He's not trying to push you into his way of thinking, he's just simply expressing the facts and letting you the viewer decide for yourself. Regardless of if you believe what Spurlock is telling you through his cute graphics and well-chosen music, he is simply just compiling the information out there and making it more accessible for his audiences.

Although not a perfect documentary or an experiment that can be considered scientifically binding, Morgan Spurlock has created a film that is both highly entertaining and informative and has indirectly led to McDonald's removing the Super Size option from their menus (though they deny it has anything to do with this movie). It was a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival and one that is sure to spark discussion as to the state of the fast food industry in North America and more specifically the United States. Not since Bowling for Columbine have I seen a documentary that has been so undeniably entertaining while still being thought-provoking and interesting. That, and there's no side order containing a political agenda. Some people may never want to eat at McDonald's after this film, but in limited amounts people can still enjoy the Golden Arches. After all, what I did I do after the screening? If you said visit the local McDonald's, then you'd be right. And when asked if I wanted fries with that, you better believe I said yes. Super Size Me is an interesting and entertaining look at the impact of one of our most recognizable corporate icons and its effect on our health. I'm lovin' it!

Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.

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