Sunday, August 21, 2011

Film Review | Super Size Me (2004)

My Big Fat American Meal
by Thomas Delapa

We’re talking fat, not phat.

When Morgan Spurlock decided to embark on a month-long "McDiet," little did he know he would gain 25 pounds, suffer liver damage and, in general, feel like hurling each and every McDay.

For 30 days straight, the New York filmmaker was his own guinea pig (emphasis on the pig), eating only McDonald’s meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With camera in one hand and a Big Mac in the other, Spurlock documented his dieting debacle. The result is Super Size Me, which might even give Ronald McDonald indigestion.

By now, most of us have heard the gross facts about fat America. Two out of three of us are overweight or obese. Poor diets and sedentary suburban lifestyles are the biggest culprits. In Manhattan alone, McDonald’s has 83 outlets. Not only do Americans eat too much, but restaurant portions are taking on monster proportions. The 7-11 Double Big Gulp contains 64 ounces of soda--a whole half-gallon. An order of McD’s super-sized fries has a whopping 600 calories.

On the eve of his experiment, Spurlock sees a battery of doctors, who all give him a bill of good health. After 30 days of Quarter Pounders, fries, Cokes and Egg McMuffins, Spurlock balloons from 185 pounds to 210 and his body fat rises from 11% to 18%. Before the month is up, his doctors tell him that his liver is showing signs of toxicity.

Now, you say, nobody eats nonstop fast food for 30 days. True, but millions of people eat fast food several times a week, and have done so for 30 years or more. Even McDonald’s’ "healthy" salads, when slathered in dressing, have equivalent calories to their burgers.

Despite the weighty subject, Spurlock’s style isn’t always delectable. His capacity for calories exceeds his ability as a stand-up comic. And he could have thinned down all those repeated shots of pot-bellied passersby.

But Super Size Me comes with an order of extra-large social comment. Spurlock’s tour of a Wisconsin grade-school cafeteria appallingly reveals kids regularly lunching on snacks, sweets and other junk foods.

If you want the skinny on America’s flabby diets, start with Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and top it off with Spurlock’s fast-paced, low-carb documentary. Together, they may wipe the smile right off your Happy Meal.

Originally published in Boulder Weekly, 5/20/04
Winner of Denver Press Club award, 2005

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