Morgan Spurlock can be brazen but he’s stubbornly dedicated, and that’s what makes him so fascinating.
In his 2004 documentary “Super-Size Me,” Spurlock subjected himself to culinary — and bodily — torture by living on only McDonald’s food for one month. The film was a bigger-picture look at the dangers of fast food, and followed the demise of his health one McNugget at a time.
The film was a rousing success — not only was it a splash at Sundance and other high-profile festivals, but after it was released, health organizations raised a fury. McDonald’s eventually eliminated the gargantuan-sized portion options from its menu.
The film gave Spurlock clout. It also made him an unlikely — albeit completely natural — star. He knows how to work a crowd. He’s undeniably confident and charismatic. He’s humorously self-mocking, yet seems like a bit of a know-it-all jerk.
So it’s not surprising that there’s a shrewd smirk permeating “POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” It’s Spurlock’s attempt to examine how movie marketing and product placement work, and how that in itself affects popular culture.
It’s a daring experiment, one that pays off not only as a downright entertaining film, but also as a thought-provoking social and filmmaking experiment.
Spurlock’s goal seems vague at first: He sets out to make a movie about product placement by having sponsors pay for the very film we’re watching with product placement. It’s almost a movie within a movie.
It’s a genius concept that actually works. We literally follow Spurlock as he goes door to door pitching his spiel — he’s also a natural born salesman.
He at first has little luck. But eventually he gets some unlikely companies to buy into his idea. Suddenly, cross-promotion deals are made (as with POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, which paid top dollar to have its name in the film’s title).
Spurlock interweaves interviews with various filmmakers, including J.J. Abrams, Quentin Tarantino and Brett Ratner, and business and political authorities, including Ralph Nader and Donald Trump.
It’s all an eye-opening look at how consumerism works, and how big-budget movies thrive on million-dollar cross-promotional deals. Those Shrek kiddie meals didn’t just happen by accident.
There’s a lot of humor throughout as Spurlock pokes fun at the “system” and what he’s doing. That he actually pulls it off and gets his movie funded is a marvel to watch.
The film should be required viewing for every marketing student and every struggling filmmaker. As Spurlock shows, success can be bought.
And isn’t that the American dream?
Rod Pocowatchit can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
‘POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’
Rating: PG-13 (some language and sexual material)
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
Showing at: Warren Theatre (east)