Monday, July 4, 2011

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

The friendly documentarian Morgan Spurlock returns with "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold". This film is considerably lighter than the highly-saturated "Super-Size Me", where Spurlock took on on the fast food kingpin McDonald's and did an adequate job of convincing us that a steady diet of a Big Mac and an order of fries was slowly putting us in lethal jeopardy and that Happy Meals target children for obesity. This film is kinder but less impassioned. Now Spurlock has his camera-eye trained on product placement in movies and advertising.

His concept is to have a film where he shamelessly seeks out advertisers and tie-ins for his documentary on advertising itself and simply show what happens. The film holds its own. Spurlock is easy to watch. He is a gentle Everyman from West Virginia. Unlike his contemporary, the heavy -coated Michael Moore, Spurlock doesn't badger. When Moore trudges in confrontation, Spurlock casually walks in a board room with a self deprecating smile. No bullhorn here. He is quick to shake hands.

We get a good taste of corporate behavior here, but as Morgan isn't really attacking anyone the smiles are congenial and not forced. The highlight of the all the interviews are the offices of POM Wonderful, a juice company that seems just a smidgen saintly and self conscious. CEO Lynda Resnick is a bit catty underneath her politeness. She is a reverse-image of Cruella de Vil killing Spurlock with kindness. Her fingernails are painted a deep red, perfectly matching the super-juice that she is mistress of. I would hate to be on her bad side. Imagine being juice-boarded by POM Wonderful.

The irrepressible Ralph Nader makes an appearance too, with what may be the best exchange in the film when Spurlock asks him if there is anyplace to go without ads. Nader replies, "to sleep."

Linguist Noam Chomsky is questioned and gives Spurlock options, either to "put his toe in the water" or to swim in a sea of advertising and drown.

This is all well and good. But when Spurlock interviews Donald Trump, the film drifts a bit into camp, especially in light of current events. Trump is as arrogant as ever, lamenting certain musicians for not taking corporate cash.

There is good fun here though, mostly in the earnest good guy nature of the director himself as he gleefully accepts sponsor after sponsor with an unbridled joy. Or when he just shrugs and laughs at the ocean of corporate zombiefication, ready to wash over his efforts .
There is a very funny sequence of Spurlock mimicking a Justin Timberlake video and shots of

Spurlock's son role-playing in corporate videos and these moments are insightful. It just seems as if the director is having too much fun going with the flow.
But maybe that is the point.

I prefer the old Spurlock, the one who unnerved the Mcdonald's corporation with stubborn charm. And who went for multiple Big Macs like a kid on a mission. Like new Coke, Spurlock's tone just seems a bit altered, a bit too jokey and sweet.

It is still Spurlock and it pleases, but I miss the old attack. The flavor suited him.

I'm not sure about the new POM suit.

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