Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Super Size Me

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

SUPER SIZE ME

7/10

USA 2004 : Morgan SPURLOCK : 98 mins

In his debut feature, documentarist Spurlock takes aim at one of the biggest, fattest, juiciest, easiest targets around – McDonald’s – and scores a direct hit. The result is a relentlessly entertaining – if occasionally dispiriting – public-health polemic which amply deserves the wide big-screen exposure afforded this year to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. If anything, Super Size Me is more focussed and effective than Moore’s sprawling behemoth – and while the film-maker is on screen pretty much throughout the picture’s 98 minutes, it’s crucial to the picture’s success that he’s a thoroughly genial, likeable, ego-free sort.

There's nothing quite like a...Despite his easygoing surface, Manhattan-based Spurlock has very serious points to make about the state of his nation. The obese symptoms of the malaise are visible on every street – but Spurlock’s diagnosis attempts to lay bare some of the root causes. He’s careful to point out that the blame doesn’t lie solely with McDonald’s, but given the company’s ubiquity and scale, this makes a sensible – and attention-grabbing – starting-point.

Spurlock’s central gimmick is to see what happens if, for one month, he obtains all his food from the McDonald’s menu. He has to eat everything on the menu at least once, and he must say yes to any invitation to “Super Size” the portions. The physical consequences are unsurprisingly dire – initially a rangy, athletic sort, the 33-year-old film-maker ends up gaining almost two stones in weight and turning his liver into what one of his medical consultants describes as “pate”.

This McStunt alone – amusing and chilling as it is – wouldn’t make for a successful movie on its own, of course. But the burger-binge is really only a launch-pad for a series of tangential reports in which wider dietary/health issues are explored with intelligence and wit. Especially troubling is Spurlock’s expose of American school meals, in most areas privatised franchised-out to the lowest bidder with scandalous – though depressingly predictable – results. In such sequences Spurlock’s diagnosis indicates a shocking abdication of responsibility at the government level that’s more urgently topical than ever in this crucial US election year.

31st August, 2004
(seen 19th August : UGC Edinburgh : public show – Edinburgh Film Festival)

click HERE for our full coverage of the 58th Edinburgh Film Festival

For an interview with Morgan Spurlock click here

by Neil Young