Documentary Month: Super Size Me (2004) Review

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Super Size Me certainly has a compelling hook. Morgan Spurlock wants to delve deeper into the effects of McDonalds on the health of America so decides to eat nothing but food from that restaurant for 30 days. Three meals a day, everyday. You can’t help but become sucked in by this and it makes you wonder if you could do it, what the effects will actually be and most importantly, if Spurlock can manage it. The issue arises when you realise there is very little “meat” to the rest of the documentary.

A documentary has to have a clear target or aim. Super Size Me seems to want to address the issue of obesity in America and also try to encourage change: either in the companies themselves or the hungry public who consume so much fast food. These are noble causes but what Super Size me ultimately boils down to is a man expressing and highlighting how fast food is inherently bad for you and that isn’t new information, not for anyone who would want to watch this movie anyway.

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Watching Spurlock complete the challenge is interesting

The real interest comes in the effects McDonalds has on Spurlock himself. It makes for compelling viewing as he attempts to complete his “challenge.” What would seem like some people’s dream and a “walk in the park” for most people, actually has interesting effects on Spurlock. The documentary is very frank and nothing is held back here. Spurlock is not afraid to let his girlfriend comment on their sex-life or highlight the weight-gain that occurs in such a short amount of time. The film is also particularly shocking when doctors are surprised by the effects and Spurlock’s health is clearly called into question with only ten days of the challenge to go.

It also helps that Spurlock is a likeable, charming presenter. He is not an aggressive interviewer or a man forcing his opinion on anyone else. His research, findings and opinions are well-presented and Spurlock almost relishes in the challenge he has set himself. He has a sense of humour which helps bring light to some of the darker effects of what he is doing to himself… even if those findings and effects are not particularly surprising.

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The effects are startling

Watching this almost fifteen years after it was made does have a shocking effect of its own. The problem hasn’t gone away and this movie should be dated. Although it has managed to inspire some change (whether McDonalds will admit it or not), the issue of obesity levels in America and Europe is a growing concern and makes Super Size Me almost a timeless documentary with a still scarily relevant message.

Overall, Super Size Me is an effective, interesting documentary considering it’s message is an obvious one. Spurlock does manage to offer some surprises and watching his attempt to eat as much McDonalds as he does is a compelling one. Unfortunately the rest of the film is too shallow and doesn’t offer enough new information to really warrant a whole documentary.

Rating – 3.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

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You don’t discover much about fast food you won’t have already known

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