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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
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   Super Size Me  


Super Size Me

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Director: Morgan Spurlock
Writing Credits: Morgan Spurlock
Genre: Documentary
Country: USA
Language: English
Year Released: 2004
Runtime: 96 min
Rating: *** (out of four stars)

Fast food is ubiquitous with modern living – it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t indulge in a fast food meal every once in a while. But how about eating nothing but fast food for thirty whole days? That’s what Morgan Spurlock attempts to do in his documentary, Super Size Me, imbibing anything and everything – as long as it’s on the McDonald’s food menu. Filmed in a distinctly Michael Moore style, Super Size Me takes a long, hard look at the fast food industry, and points an accusing finger at fast food companies for super sizing the American (and even the global) population. Is it an entertaining documentary? Without the shadow of a doubt. Is it a fair look at the deleterious effects of fast food? Absolutely not. Does it matter? Well…

Spurlock says he is inspired to conduct this crazy experiment after seeing, on TV, the absurd court case where two obese teenage girls decide to sue McDonald’s for causing their obesity (only in America, folks). Just how bad can fast food be, Spurlock wonders – what would happen to a person whose diet consists solely of McDonald’s? Thus begins his twisted experiment, which does have a few basic rules – he must try everything on the McDonald’s menu at least once, he cannot eat anything that’s not on said menu, and if asked to Super Size his meal, he must accept the challenge.

Of course, that isn’t the only thing that transpires in the documentary. Spurlock intersperses snippets of information along the way, from showing how sizes of soft drinks and fries have increased tremendously in size over the years, to how cuts in school funding have led to "bad" food being introduced into schoolchildren’s diets, to introducing a man who has consumed over 19,000 Big Macs. Arguably, these snippets become more interesting than Spurlock’s gastronomic odyssey after a while, because frankly how interesting can gorging on fast food be? We watch as Spurlock becomes more and more affected by what he eats, and gradually the documentary crosses over into reality TV world – especially when Spurlock’s girlfriend suddenly reveals in a sequence that his ability to perform in bed has been affected by his McDiet.

However, just like the fries in McDonalds, much of the movie needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt. To say that Spurlock’s experiment lacks subjectivity is an understatement. Of course we all know that fast food can be bad for the body – but Spurlock was consuming up to 5,000 calories per day whilst completely ceasing any form of exercise. In an attempt to glamorize his experiment, Spurlock completely forgot the cardinal rule of experiments – change one variable at a time, and keep all other variables constant. By changing so many aspects of his life and diet at one go, and then pointing the accusing finger at fast food, it only goes to show how one-sided the entire documentary is. However, as Michael Moore had demonstrated, documentaries need not be fair and level-headed in order to be considered good.

Super Size Me proclaims itself to be "A Movie of Epic Proportions" – whilst it doesn’t really quite make the mark as such, it gives one food for thought, and despite the skewed nature of the argument, is a relatively entertaining foray into the weird and (sometimes) wonderful world of fast food. A good visual companion to Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, but Super Size Me is certainly a lot less well-researched when compared to the book.

Final Word: Like the subject matter itself, Super Size Me is the cinematic equivalent of junk food – filling, reasonably tasty, but it cannot hide the fact that much of it is junk.