Super Size Me Review

in 11st Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival

by Mathias Heybrock

In his feature length debut, New York based director Morgan Spurlock examines the effects fast food has on condition and health. To do so Spurlock underwent the following, hilarious experiment: for thirty days he only ate at McDonald’s ­ for breakfest, lunch and dinner. He also applied the rule that whenever asked if he wanted the supersize meal he had to accept the offer.

Spurlock begins his career as a guinea-pig with some medical tests: he visits three different doctors, who all confirm he is in best health. Later in the process he will meet them again ­ and they are shocked. Of course everybody expected Spurlock to gain weight. But his liver getting seriously damaged? Spurlock also lost his energy and got both depressed by and addicted to the fast food. “Libido? Forget it”, sighs his girlfriend, a vegetarian. After fourteen days the doctors insisted that he stop. Spurlock, though, was determined to go all the way.

Spurlock’s breathtaking and self-destructive experiment is intercut with other scenes that put it into context. He asks people on the street about their fast-food habits, shows graphics and animations and interviews a spokesman from the fast food industry, relating the facts on McDonald’s and fast food in general in a very entertaining way. Spurlock also goes to school cafeterias and asks what is being served. It is fast food, of course, delivered by big companies. They gain huge profits at the expenses of children who get attached to fast food at a very young age.

The film also brings up the well known story of two girls who sued McDonald’s for making them fat. Spurlock at first thought that this lawsuit was totally wrong. As he noted in a Hot Docs panel discussion on his film: isnt anybody responsible for himself? But then he had second thoughts and decided that it might not be so easy for some kids to avoid fast food or at least eat it in moderation. Lack of self control certainly couldn’t account for the fact that in the US almost 40 percent of children are overweight with similar tendencies also on the rise in western European countries.

McDonald’s is, of course, an easy target. Nonetheless, the movie provides some unexpected insights into fast food. Furthermore, the filmmaking is brilliant. Spurlock follows in the footsteps of Michael Moore with his comic, first person style and his approach to and shaping of the material. It’s a new way of dealing with social issues in a documentary that is both entertaining and educational and will surely appeal to a wide audience.