Super Size Me

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Reviewed by: Keith Howland
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Documentary
Length:
1 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
January 17, 2004 (festival)
May 7, 2004 (limited)
DVD: August 29, 2004
Copyright, Roadside Attractions / Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Roadside Attractions / Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Roadside Attractions / Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Roadside Attractions / Samuel Goldwyn Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Roadside Attractions / Samuel Goldwyn Films

dangers and causes of obesity

dangers of excessive eating products of big corporate fast food industry

article: Help for Eating Disorders

review: Food, Inc. (2009)

review: Fast Food Nation (2006)

FOOD in the Bible

cooking

cattle


Another film by this director: Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? (2008)

Featuring: Morgan Spurlock … Himself
Daryl M. Isaacs MD Internal Medicine … Himself
Lisa Ganjhu D.O. Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist … Herself
Steven Siegel MD FACC Cardiologist … Himself
Bridget Bennett R.D. … Herself
more »
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Producer: Kathbur Pictures
The Con
more »
Distributor: Roadside Attractions / Samuel Goldwyn Films

“A film of epic portions.”

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is on a mission to eat only McDonald’s food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for thirty days. No exceptions. (That includes vitamins and aspirin.) He must eat every item on the menu at least once; and every time he is asked if he wants it “super sized,” he must say yes (although he won’t ask for it.) Further, he will limit his exercise to only the amount of walking per day of the average American.

The usually trim and healthy Spurlock has committed to this inadvisable month-long binge to form the centerpiece of his documentary film about the rampant obesity in the United States.

Spurlock is not suggesting that McDonald’s is to blame for our nation’s widespread corpulence, but fast food and candy companies do prey heavily on the susceptibilities of a complacent populace through heavily funded, pervasive advertising. “Super Size Me” is in part an antidote to that cultural influence. It advocates personal responsibility to maintain one’s health, and it reveals that fast food companies are not out to serve our best interests, but to make money.

Spurlock’s dietary adventure ably proves this. While McDonald’s takes his money, his health rapidly declines. Weekly physical examinations reveal disturbing and surprising results of his McDiet, including his liver suffering as though subjected to excessive alcohol intake. Spurlock also gains nearly thirty pounds.

The filmmaker travels the country throughout his experiment, visiting food corporation bigwigs, dietary specialists, schools, people on the street, and (of course) as many McDonald’s restaurants as he can, in order to enlighten and entertain us. The results of his interviews and observations are often interesting, such as the positive effect that a good diet has on the behavior of “troubled” teens. He also encounters many unsettling circumstances, such as schools that serve much more boxed foods than fresh (due in large part to convenience, not cost).

This all may sound gloomy, but the film is actually humorous throughout. People say and do funny things wherever you go, and Spurlock has a way of capturing it. The film is briskly edited and filled with clever cartoon and music accompaniment to heighten the comedy further. The filmmakers have certainly tried hard to create a crowd-pleasing documentary (no matter how oxymoronic that may sound), and they have mostly succeeded.

Spurlock’s documentary approach is definitely more Michael Moore than Ken Burns (that is, more self-indulgent, preachy, and scattershot than it is incisive and thorough), but it does give you much food for thought as it entertains.

Sadly, the film is also unnecessarily offensive. There is no violence, per se, but there are some disturbing cartoons, a scene of the auteur vomiting, and a graphic surgical sequence. There is some obscene dialogue, numerous mild profanities, misuse of the Lord’s name, and derogatory terms. The dialogue also contains sexual references, including Morgan’s girlfriend (a vegan!) describing their sex life. [God prohibits sex outside of marriage, as the Bible reveals: Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18.] Bodily exposure is also throughout the film. Mostly it is Spurlock in his boxers during physical examinations, but on occasion his boxers are replaced with something briefer or even nothing at all. Further, there is also a series of photos of scantily dressed women, a photo of a topless woman, as well as other crude drawings.

Even more unnecessary is the movie’s apparent intent to mock Jesus through some of its imagery. Two illustrations in the film lampoon The Last Supper, in one case showing Ronald McDonald in Jesus’ place. These mockeries are offensive in their attempts to gain laughs by irreverent treatment of the King of Kings.

Good discussion can come of “Super Size Me,” most clearly regarding what attitude we should have about our diet and physical health. God gave humanity plants and animals to eat (Genesis 1:29; 9:3), but as with all gifts of God, food and drink are to be used wisely for our good, and not to be abused through excess. The Bible warns against gluttony (as well as drunkenness), even hinting at its poor physical side-effects (Proverbs 23:20-21). God expects us to care for the bodies we have been given, but further wants us to honor Him with what we do in our bodies (I Corinthians 6:20).

Something that this film misses entirely is that we are not just a body, but also a spirit, and it is that spirit that continues when the body dies. The Bible speaks clearly about those who foolishly think of only satisfying the needs and pleasures of the physical body while ignoring the Kingdom of God and the judgment that will come to all men (Luke 17:26-29; 21:34-36; Romans 13:12-14).

Ironically, the filmmaker preaches the need for personal responsibility concerning diet, but ignores God’s law regarding human sexuality. Scripture denounces adultery more strongly than it does gluttony (Leviticus 20:10; Matthew 5:27-30); and while Spurlock demonstrates the destructive effects of eating only fast food, the Bible declares, “a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself” (Proverbs 6:32).

As with diet, everything in balance and at its proper time.

P.S.—I’ve read that since “Super Size Me” featured prominently at the Sundance Film Festival in January, McDonald’s has discontinued super-sizing. According to IMDb, “the spoof drawing of the Last Supper was cut from the Singapore theater and some DVD releases of the film.” and “An official PG-rated version is available for DVD and has been edited specifically for classroom study for grades 6-12.”

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate to heavy—“Oh J_sus,” “For G_d’s sakes,” f-word, s-words (3), cr_p (2) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—The review of this movie is fabulous—says it all. I would however give it a slightly higher rate for artistic achievement. The movie tells the story very clearly and in a very entertaining way. It’s a shame that the producer’s (and star’s) approach to life, namely his moral perspective, is so shallow and ungodly. Otherwise, this is a fascinating look at a big problem in American society—the eating of food that is harmful. The Bible does give some indication of what people ate in Biblical times, and the American eating habits are atrocious and far-removed from healthy, wholesome, fresh unprocessed food—fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains, with just a little bit of animal protein and fat. I feel well-informed by this movie.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Halyna, age 58
Positive—This is a must see film for Americans today!! Yes, I will be the first to say that there is some offensive material (It’s made by non-Christians. What do you expect?) There should be discretions as to what ages view this film. However, I believe it is imperative that Christian adults and teenagers view this film for its groundbreaking and eye-opening content. It’s brought out in such a way that is easily learned and convicting. On the film’s extras on the DVD, it is stated that it is predicted that obesity will replace smoking as the #1 preventable cause of death in America. And honestly, most of the heaviest people I have seen lately have been Christians. Lord forbid if someone is caught smoking though! Americans as well as Christians are leaving this earth before their time, and this film communicates this well. It shows the effects of poor eating (It mainly targets McDonald’s because it is the largest fast food chain. Ultimately the responsibility is placed on the consumer.)

It shows how eating undigestable foods that are sold in McDonald’s can actually have the same effects on the liver and other organs as heavy alcohol consumption does. It also shows startling evidence that fast food has an addictive quality because most of it is loaded with sugar! The film also goes beyond the restaurants and into the school cafeterias to discover the shocking truth of what your kids are being fed.

Its filmmaking is so well done that I didn’t miss one fact and discovery that was presented. I was glued!! After the film, I cried, because the truth is that America is dying mainly because they don’t educate themselves on how to have a healthy lifestyle. I had a Christian friend who died in his early thirties due to heart failure caused from terrible eating. It’s happening everywhere, and Christians are ignoring it because they don’t want to offend anyone… because even pastors eat bad! They also want ignore this film altogether because of some offensive content (even though many have no problem watching a football game littered with sexy beer ads). If this sounds blunt, I’m sorry… but it’s the truth. We need to wake up to the reality that one of America’s leading epidemics is unhealthy lifestsyles. We can’t teach our people at church to be whole Christians if we continue to stuff ourselves full of toxic foods that are no better than alcohol or cigarettes.

To conclude, I want to say that although I was disappointed in some of the immoral lifestyles portrayed in the film, I still think the overall message is essential. It will keep you entertained as well as sickened by the shocking dilemma that America is in.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Matt, age 25
Positive—Great movie, great message. Americans are ridiculously obese and it’s only getting worse. I already knew a lot of the facts presented, but it was still great to see the actual impact of an entire fast food diet. Wow, I’m glad I don’t really like that kind of stuff anyway. Sure it’s kind of tasty at times, but I just feel like crap after I’ve eaten it so for me, that’s enough of a motivator, hopefully this movie has been a motivator for others. I also enjoyed the extras on the DVD the “smoking fry” was pretty darn gross, but interesting no doubt. This film gave an important message and added humor and interesting facts to boot. I’d love to see more from Spurlock, but I hope he no longer compromises his own health to do it. I really felt for his mother and girlfriend and how worried sick they where.

This movie should be viewed by all fast food patrons, but children might have a hard time understanding it if they’re young, and there are some swear words (rarely though) and a scene of surgery (pretty graphic, I wouldn’t have liked it as a child, but curious kids with a strong stomach might be fascinated) so parents might want to watch first then show it to the kids with the fast forward on hand, but older kids would surely benefit, especially the parts about lunches and gym class. Very interesting, I was sleepy when I watched it, so I actually went back the next day and re-viewed it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Kat, age 19
Positive—Very good review. I understand that much of the film (the sexual content mainly) would be offensive to Christians, but I think that the information he provides about unhealthy eating’s effect on one’s sex life can still be beneficial to married couples who have viewed the documentary and want to maintain healthy sex lives.

Overall, I think the “gross” imagery was used to elicit a response from a disenfranchised audience who may not recognize parallels between one man’s mission to eat the unhealthy food every day and their own dietary habits of eating fast food three or four times a week.

This film, though it is a little biased, serves an important purpose. Even delegitimizing McDonald’s super sizing is enough to justify its production, to me!
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Kehli Kytlica, age 19
Neutral
Neutral—For what the film is, I feel the story is well presented and has caused me to open my eyes a little wider to see the influence of the “food” industry. Yes, there are some slightly objectionable scenes like when Morgan (the central character) “tosses his McCookies” (vomits) on the parking lot outside his car. There is also talk of sexual relations with his girlfriend, who is not (presented as) his wife. Overall, however, I feel the film is worth the time to view and you will be educated as well as entertained.

As a physician I can say that the (very mild for the weak stomached) scenes shown of a gastric bypass (weight loss) surgery are accurate, having seen this many times myself in the operating room. I respect films where good medical technical advising is obvious unlike movies such as John Q with three grossly erroneous “medical” scenes. When a film is trying to make a social statement the technical details must be correct as far as is possible and John Q’s budget was certainly much larger than this film’s was.

I personally would never have guessed that Morgan’s health would have suffered so badly in just one month of a diet of McDonald’s food. This film is certainly food for thought.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Bob C., age 40
Negative
Negative—This show was bizarre. It featured several doctors and a lab one of went out of business during the film. In this you will see Morgan Spurlock…

1. Being fingered during a rectal exam with a black box over his anus where the insertion occurred.
2. Have an erection and throw up out the window of his car eating fast food for the first time (apparently it was someone else’s problem).
3. Commentary on sex with his wife. His wife loves him, and he loves himself. (She has to be on top during sex because of his eating, he gets tired and his penis won’t work because of mean old Ronald)
4. Talk about a nonsense penis condition with one female doctor while leaning over the table and staring into her eyes.
5. Wear seductive Defaced American Flag Lingerie for another female doctor who giggles.
6. See a diagram with a balloon pointing to his penis which supposedly suffered damage from eating at McDonald’s and his wife concurs with this.
7. Talk with a male doctor who witnessed none of the prior antics but does indicate he’s on a path to trouble (Could it be the real Dr Nick.) (These actions in the workplace would classify as sexual harassment, but, since they are doctors, it is quite alright to act this way).

Other than that he eats McDonald’s and gains 25 pounds in a month despite the fact he looks no different. His wife rolls her eyes. I ate fast food recently and I eat it about ounce a year and had a great time. I would never eat it every day I’ve never been more disgusted eating fast food that I was watching this movie. If your not smart enough to figure any of this out to begin with by all means watch this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality:
—Concerned, age 53
Comments from young people
Positive—This film is great! People need to here the truth right up front about the food they’re putting in themselves and the affects it has. Kids are getting fatter and fatter these days, and it’s thanks to places like McDonalds. They didn’t need to get so discriptive with the sex-life part of the film, but an awesome documentary anyway! See it!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Adam, age 14
Negative—This film was extremely offensive to me! I have LOVED fast food all of my life! Everyone should know that if you eat a Super Sized meal 3 times a day every day you are going to gain weight. We don’t need to be told that! This film was badly made and inspires eating disorders!
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1]
—AW, age 16
Negative[Has not viewed this film] First and foremost I am incredibly angry that this film was even made and also that people have such ignorant views concerning the fast food industry. I have not seen the movie, but I am basing this review on things I have read and heard. My Dad owns three McDonalds and I can tell you that his not out just to make money and make people fat. My Dad teaches a 11th grade Sunday School class and provides many kids and people at my church with jobs. My Dad knows many people that work for the Mcdonalds corporation and their definitely not the money hungry ignorant morons that this movie makes them out to be. Nobody I know and believe lives can eat and afford to eat only McDonalds food, and if they can and do, they are ignorant and I don’t believe responsible so their views should’nt be believed as accurate. Me and my brother eat Mcdonalds, and we are definitely not fat, neither is my Dad or Mom. Again I am ashamed that people have such narrow minded views concerning the fast food industry. It should be left up to the consumer to exercise and stay healthy, no one makes them eat at McDonalds.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1]
—Andrew, age 15
Movie Critics
…McBrilliant and may be one of the most important documentaries you’ll ever see… should be mandatory viewing in our schools …
—Emily Blunt, Blunt Review
…thanks to Spurlock’s oversized and buoyant personality and some pretty nifty filmmaking, the results are as entertaining as they are sobering…
—James Greenberg, The Hollywood Reporter
…two hours after you see it, you’re hungry again, even though your brain has gotten fatter…
—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
…A hilarious and often appalling look at the way fast food is marketed in America and the dangers it poses to public health…
—Gabriel Cohen DeVries, Film Journal International

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