Super Size Me

Starring: Morgan Spurlock
Tartan Video
RRP: 15.99
TVD 3517
Certificate: 12
Available 10 January 2005

Why are Americans so fat? This is the question that Morgan Spurlock wanted to answer. He set out to interview experts in 20 US cities, including Houston - the "Fattest City" in America - whilst at the same time conducting his own personal experiment... to eat nothing but McDonald's for 30 days straight...

Super Size Me is a movie that will make you examine your way of life. Sure everyone loves fast food of one kind or another, but then it has been engineered to taste good. The companies claim that as part of a well balanced diet, fast food is good for you. So, what would happen if we just consumed fast food? The results are rather surprising.

Creator/director/star Morgan Spurlock gave himself four rules that he had to follow over his 30 day experiment. He could only eat what was available over the counter (water included); he wasn't allowed to 'Super Size' his meal unless staff gave him that option when ordering; he had to eat every item on the menu at least once; and he had to eat three square meals a day - breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This documentary is funny, thought provoking, but more importantly it is very disturbing. The UK, thankfully, doesn't yet have the same size meals as McDonald's in the US. Our large meal is the same as the US's medium. It is only a matter of time before that changes though. Thankfully we'll never get to see the Super Size meal as McDonald's withdrew that option six months after this film was released.

I say "thankfully" as no one person should be allowed to consume the amount of fries and soft drink (or milkshake) that came with a Super Size meal - I'm sure that a family of four could have easily shared the fries and drink.

Although it could be argued that McDonald's decision to withdrawn the Super Size meals in America has more to do with this movie's popularity than out of any concern for the public's health at large (oops! No pun intended), the fast food chain argues differently.

I was amazed (as was Spurlock) to discover that over the course of this experiment he consumed 30lb of sugar (a pound a day) and 12lb of fat. No wonder then that he gained weight as quickly as he did (almost a stone in the first week alone).

The three doctors that Spurlock sought to oversee this experiment were also surprised by the results - with one telling him that he should stop ten days before the end, as he was in serious danger of permanently damaging his liver.

Critics may argue that, as Spurlock was an active individual before this experiment, the fact that he tried to limit his exercise (walking) as much as possible could have been a major contributing factor to his rapid weight gain, as well as his depression and general state of mind. But you have to remember that he was trying to show in one month how some people have been living for years - eating crap and taking no exercise.

This documentary also examines the way that school dinners are being changed in the US (something that has started to happen over here in the UK too) in recent years. It is now acceptable for the food industry to provide financing for schools in exchange for letting these manufacturers provide school canteens with their food. Vending machines selling carbonated drinks packed with sugar are also becoming more common place. And now more and more children are becoming over weight. There are also more children getting diabetes at a young age than ever before. Are these just coincidences? All the evidence suggests not.

While documentaries like Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine are hard hitting, Moore's style of documentary making is becoming a little tiresome - even though I love his work. He interviews smugly, and is totally prepared before he goes into an interview - ready to attack, not listen. Not only that, but the editing of Moore's films has also come under fire. Spurlock's style is a lot more open. He started this experiment with a question and set out to find the answer (whereas Moore has the answer and goes about interviewing people to prove his point). When Spurlock's interviewees trip themselves up (and they do with hilarious results) there is no "look at me! Aren't I clever" Moore-style comments from Spurlock. He interviews them, and then checks out what they have said to see if it's true.

This release has an incredible amount of extras. One of the deleted scenes that I felt really should have stayed in the movie (it was only 22 seconds in length) was the amount of rubbish he generated solely from his McDonald's meals over the 30 days - 13 bags. And when you multiply his daily amount by 46 million (the amount of people that McDonald's feed each day) there would be enough rubbish to fill the Empire State Building every day. While you could argue that not all 46 million people have three McDonald's meals a day, this still illustrated that the amount of rubbish generated is out of control.

Other extras include: audio commentary by Spurlock and his girlfriend (a vegan chef); a UK exclusive interview with the director; a number of other interviews with people who either were included in the movie or had their scenes cut - including Eric Schlosser who wrote Fast Food Nation; and a number of (repetitive) trailers and TV spots. But, possibly the funniest (and most worrying extra) sees several food items (mostly from McDonald's) left to decay over a period of weeks. What's really scary is that the French fries don't decay at all - and we put this crap in our stomachs?

This is one documentary that everyone should watch. It's already converted me and my family - we have vowed never to visit McDonald's, KFC or Burger King ever again.

Darren Rea

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