"Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock's documented mission to
live for a month exclusively on Big Macs, french fries and other
McDonald's food and drink -- three times a day -- is basically a horror
Let's face it: Like any vampire or wolfman movie, it's
about the alarming changes the antihero sees in the mirror. Oh my God,
what's happening to me? A likable lad from West Virginia and an NYU
film-school grad in his early thirties, Spurlock decided to see what an
overabundance of McJunk can do to you. So he drives to selected cities to
eat from a number of Golden Arches restaurants. In so doing, he transforms
from a healthy young man to a bloated, slow-moving mutant who, at one
point, must lean out of his car to vomit.
As he gets bigger, sicker and unhappier by the day, his
inner circle watches with increasing anxiety. His vegan girlfriend,
cringing from the get-go, observes his descent into social and sexual
sluggishness. Three concerned doctors monitor alarming changes in his
cholesterol level and other vital signs. (Also in the consultative circle:
a nutritionist and exercise physiologist.) And Spurlock's initially peppy
humor turns darker and burpier.
Of course, Spurlock's undertaking (prompted by news
reports of two teenagers suing McDonald's, unsuccessfully, over their
obesity) is a disingenuous stunt. People in their right mind don't eat
this stuff round the clock, or if they do, they're so lost in the
super-sizing zone, they're beyond all hope. So it doesn't seem
earth-shattering for Spurlock to "discover" that if he shovels fast food
down his gullet and restricts his exercise (he's trying to duplicate the
typical American's "fitness" habits), well, he's going to look like a
Not too surprisingly, "Super Size Me" has attracted a
flurry of criticism and counterclaims. The blah-di-blah goes like this:
It's not McDonald's or Pepsi's fault (as in, the tobacco companies
vis-à-vis smoking) that people become addicted to their products. This is
a matter of personal responsibility. Fast food isn't the only reason for
100 million overweight Americans. And there's even one rival documentary
that attempts to demonstrate you can lose weight eating this stuff.
But please, can't we sit back and enjoy some good ol'
emotional truth? Why should Michael Moore enjoy all the irresponsible
rabble-rousing? It's not hyperbolic to state that the United States has
the world's greatest collection of freight-weight humans addicted to
high-fructose corn syrup and bad carbs. (One in four Mississippians, we
learn, is overweight.) Or that our landscape of fast-food restaurants and
quick-stop stores is the dietary equivalent of the killing fields.
Did we mention that, between its exclamation-point
revelations, "Super Size Me" happens to be funny? Pointing out that
McDonald's restaurants are everywhere, including inside hospitals,
Spurlock observes that "at least you're close when the coronary kicks in."
He also presents us with animated sequences featuring chickens going
through massive shredding tubes to come out at the other end of the line
in perfect McNugget shapes. And speaking of Michael Moore, Spurlock makes
repeated phone calls to McDonald's (in the style of Moore's "Roger & Me")
to speak with someone at the top, to no avail. No surprise there.
Instead, Spurlock speaks with McDonald's customers, who
yield amusing observations about their attitudes toward eating fast food.
And a lobbyist for a number of fast-food products confesses to Spurlock
that his clients' goods are something less than wonderful. When it comes
to ridiculing the world of fast food, it seems, there's no lack of
But at the heart of this film is deadly serious business.
This is a compelling cautionary tale hot-wired to your gag reflex. Watch
this documentary and you may never eat fast food casually again. Is that
such a terrible thing? Why, you could almost call it socially responsible
as much as entertainingly mischievous.
Even if Spurlock's full-on regimen is hardly
representative of most normal consumers, his weight gain (more than 24
pounds), cholesterol escalation, breathing difficulties, heart
palpitations and rapid liver deterioration (it becomes "like pâté," says
one doc) surely bear testament to something. I'll take a stab: Hey,
everyone. Stop eating so much of this stuff. It can kill you.
Super Size Me (98 minutes, at area theaters) is not rated.
It contains obscenity, sexual discussion, vomiting, liposuction and a
rectal exam that absolutely no one needs to see.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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