SUPER SIZE ME directed by Morgan Spurlock, produced by Spurlock. 96 minutes. An Odeon Films release. Opens Friday (May 7). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 88. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If you eat every meal at Mcdonald's, you'll get sick and die. That's the lesson of Super Size Me. It shouldn't be a revelation, but in the happysphere of food divorced from its consequences, it makes for a high-drama documentary. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock put himself on a Mickey D's diet to test the claim made by the chain's lawyers. Facing lawsuits from fat people who claimed it was the restaurant's fault, McDonald's hit back by insisting there was nothing essentially wrong with their food.
For a month, Spurlock ate three meals a day at McDonald's. He had to eat everything on the menu at least once. He would super-size only when asked. He nearly died.
When the month began, Spurlock had himself examined by three doctors - a cardiologist, a gastro-enterologist and a general practitioner. All three said he was in excellent health. They said the worst that could happen would be a slight weight gain and an increase in blood pressure. Then the mood swings started, and the throwing up and the 25-pound weight gain.
Super Size Me sets Spurlock's own health crash against more interesting investigations into the fast food industry. The film's best sequence digs into the murky world of school cafeteria supply. This is where Spurlock approaches the muckraking skill of Michael Moore, interviewing junk food pushers whose words tie nooses around their own necks.
Spurlock isn't exactly Naomi Klein. Four years ago, he directed a brand-burnishing corporate video called Do You Dream In Sony? It won prizes.
Here, he tears into his first day of McMuffins and Big Macs with the true gusto of the drive-thru generation. But he does his research, and the facts begin to pile up in his own body.
The count of overweight or obese Americans has doubled since 1980, and is now at 60 per cent and growing. To burn off a super-sized Coke, fries and Big Mac, you'd have to walk for seven hours straight. Eating too much fast food is as dangerous as smoking, and has already been linked to a vast menu of cancers, heart disorders and diabetes. Diabetes cuts 20 years off your life. One in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes.
From those facts, Super Size Me draws conclusions that indict not just the food itself but also the culture that sells it. Spurlock explores how, by literally carpet-bombing toddlers with TV commercials, McDonald's grows consumers from infancy to diabetes. And how we've taken on the weight of our wealth and begun to outsource gluttony to developing countries.
Weeks after Super Size Me premiered at this year's Sundance, McDonald's announced it was aborting its super-size options in all restaurants, everywhere.
Just coincidence, it added.