Super Size Me

Super Size Me

*****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

You could be forgiven for thinking that the only documentary filmmaker in North America was Michael Moore. Well, move over Micky and make room for Morgan Spurlock.

He does for McDonalds what Moore did for the National Rifle Association and this time it's close to home for us Brits, too. With the guns in Bowling For Columbine we could nod sagely, agreeing that gun ownership was bad and tsking at the American attitude. But when it comes to fast food, we're a nation of addicts too and Spurlock's film way well encourage a few people to swap their burgers for cold turkey.

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At the outset of this superb - if marginally extreme - documentary the only super-sized thing about Spurlock is his moustache which lends him an air of dissaffected Village Person... but that's before he begins his McOdyssey.

The premise is a simple one. Prompted by a court case, in which two teenagers attempted to sue Mickey Ds for their obesity, Spurlock seizes on the judge's remarks regarding the need to prove that McDonalds were the only cause of the kids' illness and to test the theory embarks of an exclusive diet of McDonalds food for the next 30 days. He is particularly concerned with "super sizing" - axed just six weeks after the film screened at Sundance - whereby for a few extra cents diners receive a pile of food that you could probably gain weight from by just looking at.

To document his progress he enlists the aid of not one, but three doctors, a GP, a gastroenterologist and a cardiologist, plus a nutritionalist, who give him a thorough examination before he starts his quest and monitor him throughout. So, armed with a very respectable body fat index of just 11-per-cent and with serious admonishment from his vegan girlfriend, he begins to live out "every eight-year-old's dream" with just three rules.

1. He must eat three square meals a day at the golden arches - including drinks - and finish them. 2. He must at some point eat every single item on the menu. 3. He will only "super size" his meal if asked by a server.

While it is fair to say there will be few people who would imagine that living exclusively in a fast food restaurant would be good for you, just how bad it becomes is a scary and sobering thought. With the weight piling on, his libido in tatters and his liver starting to feel the strain, this is certainly a lesson in avoiding excess.

It could be argued - and doubtless has been by corporate America - that this is an extreme move on Spurlock's part, a fact he acknowledges himself. But this documentary is not just concerned with putting Ronald McDonald under the microscope. Through the use of quirky art work, animation, a barrage of facts and figures, plus an incredibly dry wit, Spurlock shines a light on America's attitudes to weight gain, fast food and, in particular, the state of the nation's school meals which seem to rely more on processed junk and sugar-filled soda than anything healthy.

The frightening facts fly off the screen faster than the McDonalds' employees can ask if he wants to super size that and if you can watch one of the obese men he interviews having his stomach stapled to the tune of the Blue Danube without considering a small salad for lunch (not from McDs though, eh? They have more fat in them than a Big Mac) then you are a harder hearted - and possibly harder arteried - man than me.

It is interesting to note that McDonalds recently started giving away pedometers in an attempt to encourage people to walk more.

Having watched this film, I think I'd rather just walk straight past the door.

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2004
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Super Size Me packshot
Documentary filmmaker acts as guinea pig in fast food experiment.
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Read more Super Size Me reviews:

David Haviland *****
Darren Amner *****
Jennie Kermode *****

Director: Morgan Spurlock

Writer: Morgan Spurlock

Starring: Morgan Spurlock

Year: 2003

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

Festivals:

EIFF 2004

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