Super Size Me
Arts Alliance America // PG-13 // $26.98 // September 28, 2004
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 2, 2004
Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

On one hand, one might think that director Morgan Spurlock's documentary "Super Size Me", which takes a look at the results of Spurlock's one-month diet of McDonalds, is obvious. If one lives on a consistent diet of junk - whether it be McDonalds or otherwise, their health will begin to be problematic. However, obesity is only second in this country as a cause of preventable death behind smoking. The problem is epidemic and Spurlock's documentary, despite having an obvious end result, is a necessary wake-up call for both adults and children.

Spurlock opens the documentary with introductions about the facts behind the obesity epidemic, calling attention to some of the lawsuits regarding fast food consumption and how one can't turn around without being confronted with a McDonalds (4 per square mile in Spurlock's NYC). He then decides to go on a 30-day McDonald's diet himself in order to try and demonstrate the health effects that fast food have on the average body. He starts off by getting a full medical check-up by three different doctors, who note his fine health.

The rules of the diet are fairly simple: everything he eats must be on the McDonald's menu (when his nutritionist wants him to eat a multivitamin, he notes that "McDonalds doesn't sell multivitamins."), he must sample every food choice at least once, and he only super sizes when asked by a cashier. Three meals per day (as much as some nutritionists recommend in 8 years, according to the director). Since most Americans do not get much exercise, neither will Spurlock.

In-between Spurlock's adventures under the Golden Arches, we visit with people on the street, experts, school classrooms and even the lawyers behind some of the lawsuits against fast food corportations. Although the director's experiment starts with a happy grin, it's not long before he's puking a super-sized meal out his car window.

It all helps that Spurlock is an engaging and entertaining personality. When a law professor talks about how people continue with fast food due to warm memories of experiences and repetitive use, Spurlock jokes that whenever he has kids, he's going to punch them every time they pass by a fast food joint.

Aside from exploring the lawsuits, Spurlock's discussion of kids and obesity is also interesting - and important, given how diabetes is a tragic and increasingly widespread problem among the age group. Also along these lines, the director investigates just what's being served in classrooms (including schools that offer negative diets and very positive ones) and how popular culture pressures teens regarding their body image. Kids also are assaulted by advertisements, as we're told that McDonalds spends 1.4 billion a year worldwide on ads, while a fruit and vegetable campaign spent a mere 2 million.

By the end of 30 days, Spurlock has gained a lot of weight, his cholestrol is raised, he has headaches, nausea, symptoms of addiction and several other issues. Obviously, a full thirty days of fast food is going to have a negative result, but Spurlock starts to feel ill from the diet by a few days in and it's not long before his doctors warn him to quit - their warnings backed up by very poor numbers from health tests.

"Super Size Me" does focus on its gimmick of Spurlock's diet, which is admittedly very compelling stuff and entertaining. Although it may seem like Spurlock doesn't offer solutions, the audience can figure them out on their own - we need to be more aware of what we're eating, make better food choices and eat reduced portions (if you're going to eat it, share it.) People can eat some fast food on occasion (I like pizza and fried rice here-and-there), but it can't become the majority of one's diet.

This edition of the film is PG-13, as it was theatrically. Although I believe it was originally scheduled to accompany this release, there will apparently be a PG family friendly version eventually, which will hopefully find its way into schools. Even so, older children should still see this film in this edition.


VIDEO: "Super Size Me" is presented in 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen by Hart Sharp Video. The film was shot in digital video, with a low budget. The image quality is generally decent; the off lighting at times is understandable, given the need for the production to be mobile. Sharpness and detail vary a lot, although the image never becomes too soft and almost always retains at least a fairly crisp look.

There weren't too many issues with the presentation. A few scenes showed some minor/mild pixelation, but otherwise, no issues of real concern were seen. The picture appeared free of visible edge enhancement and wear. Colors remained natural and looked fairly accurate.

SOUND: "Super Size Me" is presented in 2.0 audio. A documentary presentation, the audio mainly focuses on the dialogue. Although some situations likely prevented easy recording, all dialogue is easily understood. Occasional background music and sound effects are crisp and clear.

EXTRAS: The main extra is a commentary from Spurlock and his girlfriend, Alex, who is a vegan chef. Spurlock mainly spends the commentary recalling some of the situations that he and the basic crew encountered during their attempts to capture Spurlock's experiment. It's a mildly interesting commentary that provides some additional background on scenes and also some funny stories.

"The Smoking Fry" shows Spurlock keeping various forms of fast food (some from McDonalds, some from a place that actually cooks the meat and fries from scratches) in glass jars in his office and then how the food breaks down over months. After weeks and weeks, the McDonalds French Fries have not broken down whatsoever.

Also included are 4 deleted scenes and 6 extra interviews.

Final Thoughts: "Super Size Me" is a very entertaining and involving documentary that follows Spurlock on his troubling fast food journey. The DVD offers decent audio/video quality and good supplements. While it revolves around a gimmick, I still believe that "Super Size" is an important film and certainly a must-see. Highly recommended.

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