After hearing of two girls suing McDonald's for their obesity and seeing the burger chain's subsequent denial of responsibility, documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock undergoes an experiment: for 30 days he will only eat and drink items from McDonalds
Sit yourself down, stop eating that burger and pay attention, because this is going to come as a surprise: junk food is bad for you. Imagine. As revelations go, it's up there with the news that footballers cheat on their wives and politicians lie. But shocking his audience into dropping their McCoronary with cheese isn't the point of Morgan Spurlock's film.
It's a documentary without any particular sermons to preach or politics to hammer home; simply a visual representation of all the questions that go through anybody's mind when they chow down on the Golden Arches' finest. It's a hugely enjoyable descent into epic gluttony.
It's the thinking man's Jackass. Super Size Me works mainly thanks to the goofy watchability of Spurlock, a man who makes his way through a month living off nothing but the McDonald's menu with remarkably good humour, even when vomiting his experiment (on the second day!) out of his car window. He constructs his little seminar in such an anger-free, cheery-faced way that even the most revolting facts slide down with ease. When ordered by his doctors to stop his diet before his liver "turns to pâté", he doesn't dwell indulgently on the situation, cutting to a shot of his flabby, greasy self miserably, but amusingly, tucking into another burger.
He has none of the righteous indignation of Michael Moore, letting the facts speak for themselves with little need to editorialise, making his viewer feel less beaten down by rhetoric than politely informed. That lack of passionate viewpoint does, however, mean that the important points sometimes get lost amongst the comedy. A section dealing with the proliferation of junk food in American schools feels a touch undercooked and out of pace with the rest of the doc's geniality.
Anyone familiar with Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation will already have heard these horror stories and many more besides. But a book rarely has the immediate effectiveness of film, and for all his jollity, Spurlock has achieved something Schlosser only did in small part: he's got McDonald's running scared. How many salads do you remember seeing in Ronald's hangout before the release of this film?
Very much from the Michael Moore school of comedy/stunt doc-making, although Spurlock avoids Moores heftier rhetoric. Consumption will lead to possible nausea and certain amusement.