The film also looks at the marketing tactics of fast food companies … for example the use of Play Lands, Happy Meals, and Ronald McDonald to appeal to children. It’s scary to think how much effect marketing has in forming a person’s perspective--from food choices, to choice of dress, and even body image. We live in a culture full of illusions, but if they’re real in our minds it’s often our personal truth.

(2004) Film Review by Benn Becker

This page was created on June 11, 2004
This page was last updated on June 13, 2005


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CREDITS

Directed by Morgan Spurlock
Written by Morgan Spurlock

Producers
J.R. Morley ... executive producer
Heather M. Winters ... executive producer

Cast
Morgan Spurlock ... Himself
Dr. Daryl Isaacs ... Himself

Original Music
Doug Ray (song "Super Size Me")

Editors
Stela Georgieva
Julie Bob Lombardi

Visual Effects Department
Jonah Tobias ... digital artist

Miscellaneous Crew
Grant Goodman ... assistant editor
Olivia Relova ... assistant editor


Not Rated


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SYNOPSIS
Click to enlargeWhy are Americans so fat? Find out in SUPER SIZE ME, a tongue in-cheek - and burger in hand -- look at the legal, financial and physical costs of America's hunger for fast food. Ominously, 37% of American children and adolescents are carrying too much fat and 2 out of every three adults are overweight or obese. Is it our fault for lacking self-control, or are the fast-food corporations to blame? Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock hit the road and interviewed experts in 20 U.S. cities, including Houston, the "Fattest City" in America. From Surgeon Generals to gym teachers, cooks to kids, lawmakers to legislators, these authorities shared their research, opinions and "gut feelings" on our ever-expanding girth. During the journey, Spurlock also put his own body on the line, living on nothing but McDonald's for an entire month with three simple rules:

1) No options: he could only eat what was available over the counter (water included!) 2) No supersizing unless offered 3) No excuses: he had to eat every item on the menu at least once

It all adds up to a fat food bill, harrowing visits to the doctor, and compelling viewing for anyone who's ever wondered if man could live on fast food alone. The film explores the horror of school lunch programs, declining health and physical education classes, food addictions and the extreme measures people take to lose weight and regain their health. SUPER SIZE ME is a satirical jab in the stomach, overstuffed with fat and facts about the billion-dollar industry besieged by doctors, lawyers and nutritionists alike. "Would you like fries with that?" will never sound the same!

Click to go to Tom's Blog

Review by
TOM PRICE

Super size BLOG

Three days into his quest to eat nothing but McDonald’s food for a month, Morgan Spurlock accepts his first invitation to “super-size” his meal. But within 30 minutes of downing his Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, half-pound of fries and 42-ounce Coke, he throws up the “McLead” he felt in his stomach.

Spurlock survived his 30-day binge, but not before gaining 25 pounds, raising his cholesterol to dangerous levels, and endangering his liver and heart. Physicians monitoring his health and his girlfriend, a vegan chef, urged him to stop after three weeks. His gastronomical trials and tribulations are portrayed in the independent documentary “Super Size Me,” which debuted in January 2004 at the Sundance Film Festival, where Spurlock was named best director.

In nationwide release since May, this Mc-raking documentary succeeds by combining information we’ve all heard about nutrition with biting moments that taste as good as … well, fast food itself, minus any lingering aftertaste or unhealthy side effects.

The 1-hour-and-40-minute film represented quite an education for the 12-, 10- and 7-year-old girls who attended my viewing. The film captivated them. Some moments shocked them. (A middle-school student claims fries are her daily vegetable. Teen-age girls stumble over the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, before flawlessly reciting McDonald’s mantra -- “two all-beef patties, special sauce …”) But there were some inappropriate parts, including some profanity, way too much filming of Spurlock’s medical exams, and his girlfriend’s discussion of the diet’s impact on his sex life. The theatrical release is perhaps equivalent to a PG-13 film.

That’s why a “family-friendly” DVD version is available in addition to standard versions. The filmmakers plan to market it to public schools, beefed up with more than an hour of additional content, including an interview with Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation,” which inspired the film.

In a nation where over-eating is overtaking smoking as the No. 1 preventable cause of death, Spurlock sought to replicate a diet that many Americans eat too frequently, although not for every meal in a month. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder began his film journey in “above average” health for a 33-year-old, according to physicians who monitored his progress. He had three rules:

• Eat only what is on McDonald’s menus.

• “Super size” meals only when asked. (Servers offered him that option nine times during the month.)

• Sample every item on McDonald’s menu (including bottled water and salads) at some point during the month.

Still, this diet plan frequently had Spurlock consuming twice his daily limit of calories. He reported feeling lethargic and depressed, saying that the only time he felt good was when he was consuming another Big Mac. One doctor said the damage occurring to Spurlock’s liver reminded him of what happened to Nicholas Cage’s binging alcoholic in “Leaving Las Vegas.” (Even with cooking from his vegan girlfriend, Spurlock needed about a year to return to normal girth.)

McDonald’s responded to what already is the fourth-highest grossing U.S. documentary with an advertising campaign. It ended its “super size” options six weeks after the film’s debut, insisting the step was unrelated, and recently introduced a new line of “premium salads,” including one that contains more calories than a Big Mac.

This documentary raises anew questions for we who believe one cannot live by bread alone, Why are so many of us eating ourselves to death when others cannot find adequate calories to survive? Are we getting “more with less” when it comes to nutrition by not monitoring the nature (calories, sodium and fat content, for example) of food we consume for the sake of convenience? And why is it that super-sized Christians are among the most prolific at condemning the sins of others? Pecan log, anyone?

One heart-burning question remains for this reviewer: How would someone fare trying to live for 30 days on nothing but church potlucks? I suspect not much better.


Review by
BENN BECKER
Benn has an undergradute degree in Finance from the University of Nebraska and is working towards a masters in both Business and English. He owns some farmland and is currently writing a novel. He lives in Lincoln, NE.
Click to enlargeSuper Size Me is a new documentary by Morgan Spurlock. Spurlock decides to eat McDonald’s three meals a day for an entire month and this film documents the effects on Spurlock’s general health over the period and addresses other relevant issues as well. What we put in our body can affect everything about us--physical well-being, emotional well-being, and sexual functioning. The film has been deemed ridiculous and over-the top by some because no one eats McDonald’s every meal. While that is true, there are many people who eat fast food VERY frequently. The film is a good vehicle to encourage awareness and provoke more thought on America’s food culture, and our culture as a whole.

There are many reasons Americans (and increasingly foreigners) eat so much fast food. For starters it’s generally cheap. Americans today make less money than they did in 1970 (in real dollars) and on average work six more weeks to earn that money. The gap between rich and poor is growing and the middle class is disappearing. As the United States moves more to a fully service economy, more decent paying jobs are being lost and are replaced with lower-wage jobs. “In 1997, almost half of the new jobs created paid less than $16,000” (Sam Smith, Why Bother? . . .). More regularly companies are releasing full-time workers and hiring back a larger number of part-time workers at lower pay and benefits to reduce overall payroll costs. Americans are stressed for time and money and often fast food is the easiest and cheapest solution.

Click to enlargeThe film also looks at the marketing tactics of fast food companies … for example the use of Play Lands, Happy Meals, and Ronald McDonald to appeal to children. It’s scary to think how much effect marketing has in forming a person’s perspective--from food choices, to choice of dress, and even body image. We live in a culture full of illusions, but if they’re real in our minds it’s often our personal truth. The average person is exposed to 3,000 advertising messages a day. Many school districts are underfunded and turn to food companies for funding in return for vending rights and corporate food on the lunch menu … yet another marketing opportunity. Corporations pay to have their logo and corporate name used for examples in school textbooks. Often there comes a point where you have to check yourself and question your reality and sense of truth. Writer David Edwards states, “I often feel a strange internal conflict between what I know is true--what every cell in my body tells me is true--and what I am told is true in the media and elsewhere. It’s almost as if we hypnotize ourselves into believing these absurdities. The key, I suspect, is that everyone around us appears to accept what might otherwise be considered absurd. Then that small, lonely insecure part of us that likes to belong, that is terrified of being alone, thinks ’Well, that must be right’ -- not out of reason, but out of fear of isolation . . .”

Most of all over-consumption works business wise. If $.30 profit can be made on a $.39 supersize it makes business sense. The beautiful thing about capitalism is that it keeps feeding itself … often in all the wrong ways. Over-consumption leads to obesity which leads to a diet industry and fitness industry, and so on. Waste often equals profit, but that’s what our economy thrives on. The founder of Heinz once said he made his fortune on the unused ketchup thrown away on a wrapper, not on what was consumed.

In the end we learn the effects of Spurlock’s diet are similar to that of a binge drinker, surprising even the doctors. Super Size Me is not solely meant to bash McDonald’s, but rather start conversation among the public and ask us to take a closer look at our culture as a whole especially when it comes to food. THAT is where progress and true change begins. Yes, we need to take personal responsibility, but it’s also very true that our environment can have quite a hold on us. If you are interested in reading more about the food industry as a whole, I highly recommend Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and I recommend “Super Size Me”. It’s humorously entertaining and informative and will give you a lot of FOOD for thought.
More

Click to go to Mike's Blog

Review by
MIKE FURCHES

MIKE FURCHES' SUPER SIZED BLOG -HERE

I have a wonderful daughter who’ll be getting married April 9, 2005. She has a passion for movies; she majored in Mass Communications with a concentration in Film, and is currently the News Editor for The Newton Kansan. I have done a good job of raising her and one of the reasons I believe this is she is passionate about children, and helping those in need. She is a big sister, through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program and it is through this association that I became aware of one of this years Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary, titled Super Size Me.

It was while on an outing with her and her little sister, that I was dressed as Santa Claus. We were taking the little sister, Maria out to check on some Christmas Presents. Maria and Santa, on a date, imagine what that is like for a 6-year-old child? While on the date, we talked about going out to get something to eat, Santa suggests McDonalds and Marathana, Santa’s daughter when Santa is not dressed like Santa, gives Santa that “look” that comes from a point of disgust and anger.

“We don’t eat at McDonalds!” Marathana tells Santa, “Right Maria?” She asks.

“Nope, Marathana says it’s not good for me.” Maria replies, “She takes me to Subway or someplace where we have to sit down and order food.”

Later that evening after taking Maria home I ask Marathana, “What was all of that about regarding McDonalds?” She then proceeds to tell me about the movie she has recently seen called Super Size Me. She is always talking to me about my health and the need to loose weight and watch my blood sugar, I’m diabetic after all and another reason I know my daughter is a good child is that she loves me enough to check on my health on a regular basis. My daughter tells me how I need to see this movie and that after I do I won’t see fast foods the same again. At first I don’t believe her and after a few months of teasing her, I finally decide to purchase the DVD when it becomes available for sale. I just finished watching the DVD and to say the least, not since the movie Reversal has a movie done so much to change my life.

Ben Becker one of my Hollywood Jesus co writers has a great review of the movie that was published shortly after the release of the movie so I have no intent of rehashing what he says. I will point out a few things regarding the movie that impacted me though in a personal way.

Super Size Me in brief is a documentary of the journey taken by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. He goes on a 30 day experiment of eating only food from McDonalds. If it don’t come over the counter of McDonalds he won’t eat it. He goes through the experiment with the assistance and supervision of three doctors and along the way discovers some interesting tid-bits about the fast food industry.

The reality of it is, that one would be hard pressed to watch this movie, and the special features offered on the DVD and not be impressed with the research and the harm that consumers are currently facing regarding the availability of fast food’s through fast food establishments. On the surface, this film is an apparent attack on the approaches used by McDonald’s but in reality it is much more about the industry and the consumption habits of food consumers. The epidemic of obesity is attacked head on and with a vengeance.

We the viewer, are confronted with a variety of enlightening concepts, the marketing approach of these fast food businesses. The nutritional, or lack thereof, value of the food produced by these companies, their greed, health issues, and our own reluctance to do the things necessary to provide appropriate care not just for ourselves, but for our children. The lack of concern for the very same children who run the risk according to the filmmakers of having a 1 in 3 chance, for persons under the age of 12, of developing diabetes. There are other interesting concepts that we learn, for example the effectiveness of the marketing ploys used on children. We see for instance in one scene where 6-year-old children are unable to recognize images of popular historical figures, figures such as George Washington. We even see in this scene where not a single 6-year-old child recognizes the image of Jesus Christ, yet, every child recognizes the image of, and becomes excited about the image of Ronald McDonald.

In the special features section of the DVD we are told that Ronald McDonald is in many ways, the same prototypical character as Joe Camel, the character responsible for attracting many children to cigarettes. The exception is that Ronald McDonald, who by the way you never see eating in a McDonalds commercial, draws children to unhealthy eating habits, and with foods that have little or no nutritional value.

As a viewer and consumer, I was moved by the portrayals and commentary in Super Size Me. I did not realize for example, that the meat in a hamburger from McDonalds in reality comes from upwards of a thousand different cows, and from up to 4 different countries. Those cattle are raised in feedlots that require a great deal of antibacterial supplements and antibiotics to prevent the disease that comes about from being raised in one another’s feces. Another fascinating study, on the special features segment, shows the food from McDonalds being compared to other foods in the breakdown degeneration process. After 10 weeks we see the break down of various foods, yet the french fries from McDonalds has no visible breakdown. This is especially troubling, especially when compared to the break down of fries that comes directly from potatoes that begins to break down after 2-3 days. The issue of what is in those fries to prevent the degeneration process becomes quite disturbing when taking into consideration the amount of french fries consumed in my 45+ years of life and the effects of those fries on my digestive system.

Super Size Me is a must view video for all individuals who consume fast foods. The movie has had a dramatic impact on the chains themselves. The fast food chains for example won’t confess this, but I have to believe that the change in menus in many of those restaurants has come about as a direct result of this movie. Shortly after the release of this film, we begin to see things like salads, healthy choices on happy meals and other menu items, yogurt, and as of this week, I have even seen fruit options given at many fast food restaurants. One has to wonder though, is this because those companies are legitimately concerned over the health of its customers or because of the public pressure placed on them? We also have to be careful as the film makers point out as to the reality of the “healthy” alternatives. We learn for example that a parfait fruit yogurt from McDonalds with granola has actually more calories, carbohydrates and fat than does a Big Mac. We also learn that this is the case for some of the salads that are offered if using the dressing that comes with it.

To say the least this movie has had an impact on me. You see, through my own admission I am overweight and need to change my dietary and exercise habits. I have been actively involved in exercise recently, going to the gym from 3-5 times a week. I have taken advantage though of the convenience of fast food restaurants. This without realizing the harm done to my body, especially my liver and the breakdown and destruction that can mirror that of an alcoholic when consuming too much fast food. As a result, I will quit visiting those establishments, I will no longer consume french fries unless I can be assured they come from a real potato with no additives or preservatives. I will choose to cook more at home, knowing what goes into my food and thus being assured of appropriate, healthy foods. I will see to it that my family, wife, and son still at home also follow the same healthy life-style. Why would I do this? Quite simple, I want to live a healthy and productive life and want the same for my wife and children. As one who has a profession of belief in God, I should want to take care of the body that God has given me. Truth be told, I am confident after viewing this movie, that those in the fast food industry are more concerned about getting my hard earned dollar to make a profit the cheapest way possible, than they are about seeing to my own health and welfare.

On a scale of 1 – 10, for everything that a movie should be, an uplifting and educational 10

MIKE FURCHES' SUPER SIZED BLOG -HERE

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