Unhappy meals for 30 days
In the latest health scare, Americans are told they're the fattest people in the world, with growing numbers labeled overweight or obese. Some folks have even tried to sue the fast-food industry for pushing dangerous products.
Within this context, it's hard to imagine a more topical documentary than "Super Size Me," a first-person account of slim filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's decision to try on corpulence for size.
Since the globally inescapable McDonald's franchise is considered an outsized villain in the heft-inducing business, Mr. Spurlock decided to hinge his experiment on the fatty, sugary McFood consumed by many of the people deemed too chubby for their own good. He set firm rules for his research: He would eat nothing but McDonald's meals for a month, downing every item on the menu at least once, and going for super-size portions every time a server suggested it.
The results? Surprise! Spurlock gained weight! He also suffered a wide array of other health effects, according to doctors who monitored his health.
Some skeptics allege that Spurlock fudged his experiment (so to speak) by occasionally straying from his McBinge when the cameras weren't on. Two other naysayers went on their own McDiets, and say they lost 10 pounds in a month.
"Super Size Me" isn't nearly as persuasive as it wants to appear. It's written and edited with plenty of jazzy style - enough to win Spurlock a Sundance Award for best director - but as a case study it carries more polemical flab than scientific muscle.
The main problem is that Spurlock didn't eat his McMeals the way ordinary people do. He stuffed himself way beyond the point of pleasure, using sheer will power (or visions of Sundance glory) to scarf portions so huge that he became the human equivalent of a force-fed goose.
His argument isn't strengthened by such journalistic gimmicks as vox-pop quotations - how representative are the comments he's chosen for his final cut? - and interviews with experts who clearly share his perspective.
If recent documentaries like "My Architect" and "The Fog of War" can be compared with lovingly prepared meals that resonate in memory long after they're over, "Super Size Me" is their fast-food counterpart - tasty while you take it in, but larded down with empty cinematic calories.
• Not rated; contains adult material.