8 out of 10

A Legend In His Own Lunch Time

Special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickled liver, onions, depression and stapled stomach on a sesame seed bun? Lab rat and clever documentary filmmaker, young West Virginian native Morgan Spurlock dives into an experiment that would be any hamburger loverıs dream but turns out to be his worst nightmare. Commiting himself to a McDonaldıs-only diet, with the assistance of a doctor, a nutritionist and various health specialists, Spurlock begins in his home in New York and heads out with a camera crew, conducting interviews and eating his way through McDonaldıs restaurants across the USA, he examines the impact that fast food has had on the health, culture and lifestyle of Americans of all ages.

Opening at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 and made on a budget of $75,000, it has won over awards including an Oscar nomination and awards for Best Documentary at the Edinburgh and Full Frame Film Festivals. Full of interesting facts, bold humor and an almost closer than desired look at the effects of an all month McDonaldıs diet, ³Super Size Me² is an entertaining combination of biology experiment, Michael Moore-style expose and social commentary. Spurlock interviews teachers, company spokespeople, adults, teenagers and children about their views on McDonaldıs, fast food in schools and the impact of the increase in weight gain and poor health of Americans. With fast paced editing, captivating situations and intelligent commentary, Spurlock who has previous experience working with MTV, ESPN and various tv networks, has created a streetwise, hilarious and facinating piece in the style of ³TV Nation² but which is much more relevant and captivating.

Made from over 250 hours of footage, the most astounding moments of the documnentary are the effects of 21 meals a week at the Golden Arches. Only a few weeks into the experiment, a healthy and trim Spurlock, who is closely monitored by doctors thoughout the picture, becomes nauseaous, unable to sleep and unintentionally raises his blood pressure, pickles his liver and gains pounds while his vegetarian girlfriend Alex, looks on in horror. While clearly interested in nutrition and the effects of fast food on health, ³Super Size Me² doesnıt take sides but provides open minded interviews examining all sides of the issue. Prominent figures from Subway, Nestle and Baskin Robbins are also interviewed along with cafeteria workers and teachers who are quick to comment on the improvents from providing more wholsome meals in their schools. Also appearing along with various celebrities are Don Gorske who has won an award in the Guinness Book of Records and has consumed over 19,000 Big Macs over 30 years (thatıs an estimated 75 cows or two and a half cows a year!), Americans forced to undergo surgery due to an unhealthy diets and students who more quickly recognize an image of Ronald McDonald than George Washington.

Cleverly catching out various people, including a fast food industry lobbyist, Spurlockıs film and interviews have provoked some change from the billion dollar a year company. McDonaldıs response, which includes denial that the film has affected any of their recent changes in menu, has included providing more nutritional information, the removal of their ³Super Size² option and inclusion of more healthy meals, such as salads and yogurt in their restaurants.

Following the release of the film, outside of taking nearly a year to recover from his experiment, Morgan Spurlock continues to travel and talk about his experience and the effects of commercialism and neglect of nutrition on children and adults, approaching his lectures with the same humourous and down-to-earth style which make the film such a success.

Although the concept and depth of interviews could have been taken further for more of an impact, Spurlock successfully takes on a corporate giant and provides evidence of the dangers and hidden dark side of fast food, which beg for a more indepth exploration of the true components that make up that tame looking Big Mac and large shake. He has also just published ³Donıt Eat This Book² and includes information for students on healthy eating and exercise while continuing to examine the recent trend of the expanding proportions of North Americans. Eye-opening and thought-provoking, it is one that will keep you steering clear of that Happy Meal and Chicken McNugget for some time to come. Not one to be missed.


Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies