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Year: 2004
Director: Morgan Spurlock

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Cast:

Morgan Spurlock (Himself), Daryl Isaacs (Himself (as Daryl M. Isaacs MD Internal Medicine)), Lisa Ganjhu (Herself (as Lisa Ganjhu D.O. Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist)), Stephen Siegel (Himself (as Steven Siegel MD FACC Cardiologist)), Bridget Bennett (Herself (as Bridget Bennett R.D.)), Eric Rowley (Himself - Exercise Physiologist), Mark Fenton (Himself - Former Editor: Walking), Alexandra Jamieson (Herself - Morgan's Girlfriend (as Healthy Chef Alex)), John Banzhaf (Himself - Lawyer (as John F. Banzhaf III)), David Satcher (Himself - Former Health Minister (as Dr. David Satcher)), Lisa Young (Herself - Nutrition Professor (as Dr. Lisa Young)), Kelly Brownell (Himself), Jacob Sullum (Himself - Journalist), Tommy Thompson (Himself - US Secretary of Health), William J. Klish (Himself - Medicine Doctor (as William Klish)), Jared Fogle (Himself - Spokesman for Subway), John Robbins (Himself - Journalist and Writer), Don Gorske (Himself - Hearty Eater of Big Macs), Mary Gorske (Herself - Don's Wife), Ron English (Himself - Painter)

Storyline:

Why are Americans so fat? Two words: fast food. What would happen if you ate nothing but fast food for an entire month? Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock does just that and embarks on the most perilous journey of his life. The rules? For 30 days he can't eat or drink anything that isn't on McDonald's menu; he must wolf three squares a day; he must consume everything on the menu at least once and supersize his meal if asked. Spurlock treks across the country interviewing a host of experts on fast food and an equal number of regular folk while chowing down at the Golden Arches. Spurlock's grueling drive-through diet spirals him into a physical and emotional metamorphosis that will make you think twice about picking up another Big Mac.

Reviews:

Living with his vegan girlfriend, Morgan Spurlock decides to try and eat McDonalds for every meal for a month. At the same time he reduces the amount of exercise and walking to match that of the 'average' American to make for a fair experiment. After an initial bit of sickness he gets to enjoy the food and eats it three times per day. However after a week or two, his doctors begin to notice significant increases in body fat, cholesterol and blood pressure. Interspersed with this are interviews with experts on the nutritional value, marketing and impact of McDonalds and fast food generally.

Several years ago I read the book Fast Food Nation and basically that ended my interest in the main fast food outlets and saw my consumption of processed foods drop quite a bit. I did not become a born again Christian and still eat rubbish food and am no role model for healthy living! However, what I have notice in the press and in the audiences for this film is a rather smug 'look at them' attitude as if this has no impact in Europe and Americans are some sort of freak show and nothing to do with us. This film may focus on McDonalds because it is the world leader in fast food which is high in saturated fats but if all you take from this film is pleasure at seeing McDonalds taking a kicking then you are missing the point. The film was challenging to me and I hope it was to many viewers – but I have not eaten in McDonalds or Burger King since 2001 and a bad bout of food poisoning in early 2003 ended my ability to enjoy KFC. So why did I find it challenging? Well, because like many others, I eat too many saturated fats and, regardless of where they come from (oven foods, ready meals or fast food) I need to cut them down. Spurlock sends this message in a really entertaining way while also having good digs at McDonalds.

His relaxed style is refreshing and allows the facts to speak for themselves. He clearly doesn't like fast food as a concept but he is no Michael Moore and is only slightly biased. He is certainly a lot more interesting than his vegan girlfriend who is one of those overbearing self-righteous types who look down their nose at anything. His good humour makes the film but it is the documentary rather than the gimmick that kept me watching. The facts on obesity do speak for themselves and they are frightening and all the more so when you actually sit and think about what you eat – sweets, colas, ready meals, crisps, processed foods; whether it is salt, saturated fats or sugar, any of these foods spells trouble if they are not part of a balanced diet. My only fear of this film is that many viewers will look at McDonalds and say 'they are to blame, lets get them' and simply ignore that it is very easy to eat an unhealthy diet – go to any supermarket and you'll find 'easy' food served up quickly but without the things your body needs. I was challenged because I can easily veg out for several days and be too tired to cook decent food and this reminded me why I need to – hopefully many viewers will take that challenge and not just turn from one fatty diet (McDonalds) to another (ready meals).

I personally didn't find the film as funny nor as shocking as many commentators have said it was but it was still consistently entertaining and interesting, true not the most scientific of experiments but that is not the point. True, very few people eat McDonalds every day but many, many people do eat foods high in saturated fats everyday even if they are not all happy meals and, in this way, maybe Spurlock's experiment wasn't so far-fetched and, lets be honest, like their own lobbyist said – McDonalds are part of the problem. That the film has had an impact is undeniable – the super size option has been removed and how many salads did you see in McDonalds this time last year? It may seem unfair and I can understand why McDonalds has been quick to counter it and call it unfair and, in a way it is unfair – why should they carry the whole blame for an overwhelming surge in unhealthy eating, but I suppose that's what you get for being the market leaders!

Overall this was a very entertaining film that mixes its gimmick well with humour but also a good core of a documentary with interesting talking heads who don't rant or rave but simply look to the figures in most cases. However, I would say this; if you only see this film to sneer at those visibly unhealthy or to tear a strip off McDonalds then you are missing the bigger point – it is easy to eat unhealthy, cheap food no matter what brand it is – eating it every day and having a poor diet is a major problem and, if nothing else this should challenge all of us to look at our own habits and not just point and laugh at others.

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Fast food is good. I freely admit to running through fast food drive-thrus (Wendy's, Taco Bell and McDonald's being my top 3) often, sometimes several times a week. And I'm not the only one. I'm also one of the many millions of people in the country who are, uh...not thin. Think there's a connection?

In "Super Size Me", a documentary from talented debut filmmaker Morgan Spurlock that manages to be both entertaining and horrifying, he attempts to draw a parallel between the fast food culture we live in and the rampant (and ever-increasing) rate of obesity in America.

To do this, he launched into a little science experiment. A 33 year-old New Yorker in excellent health, he would eat nothing but McDonald's for an entire month, to gauge the effects on his body. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at McDonald's and whenever they asked him to supersize, he would have to accept.

Before starting, he consulted three doctors, a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, and a general practitioner, all of whom said this experiment obviously wouldn't be GOOD for him, but that the damages would be minimal.

Instead, the results were pretty shocking. Spurlock gained almost 30 pounds (over 10 in the first week), saw his cholesterol skyrocket, and experienced frequent nausea, chest pains, mood swings and loss of sex drive.

During this month he also drove around the country, interviewing several different people on the topic (including a "Big Mac enthusiast" who has eaten over 19,000 Big Macs). His research on our fast food culture definitely yields some interesting information, especially when he interviews a group of 1st-graders, and more of them can identify Ronald McDonald than Jesus or George Washington.

"Super Size Me" isn't perfect. It's a little repetitive and has a certain thinness to it (no pun intended!) that prevents it from being one of the truly great comedic documentaries of recent years like "American Movie" or "Bowling For Columbine".

But even if it falls short of greatness, it's an entertaining and thought-provoking film (especially if you're, uh...not thin).

Spurlock is a witty and engaging host (sort of like Michael Moore but not as much of a windbag), and I also liked his girlfriend (a vegan chef!) who looks on his experiment with a mixture of amusement, horror, and dismay. Just like we do.

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