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"Food, Inc."

Directed by Robert Kenner.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  7/2/09


If you can stomach the idea of watching chickens, cattle, pigs and sometimes even people getting roughed up, while hearing that generally everything most Americans eat is killing them right this second, "Food, Inc." rewards you with a satisfying look at the food business of America.  Even though it is a bit heavy-handed at times, it does tell a pretty comprehensive story of what it's like to eat in this day and age, with multinational corporations out for your money and maybe not your best interests.

"Food, Inc." takes a look at a few different things in about ten different segments--grocery stores; food production; animal growth, maintenance, and slaughter; food science; fast food; organic foods at retail; "fresh" or "clean" or "organic" farming; food labeling and government policy; the American farmer; the Mexican meatpacker/laborer.  Naturally, you can't cover too much in ten-minute bursts, but "Food, Inc." still manages to tell a compelling story by taking on large firms and their somewhat shady practices...and then, giving each of those firms (Tyson, Monsanto, Smithfield, etc.) a chance to comment, a chance that each and every firm turns down.  All, except for Wal-Mart, which has begun to embrace placing organic foods on its shelves, which allows its employees to speak about that practice...and, the segment on the independent farmer, where we get to see what it's like for a guy who insists on feeding his animals grass (not corn), raising, then killing, then cleaning meat products by hand as opposed to a mechanized slaughterhouse.

All of the segments are backed like you would expect--a mix of industry experts, authors (the guys who wrote "Fast Food Nation" and "An Omnivore's Dilemma"), publicly-available government statistics, farmers, parents, advocates and others speak about their recent food experiences.  The presentation is strong, engaging, and nearly the perfect mix of sob stories, hard numbers, interactive graphics and talking head pieces.  In fact, the biggest problem with "Food, Inc." is also its format--while a 100-minute movie is solid, a five-part or seven-part documentary that tackles each piece of this argument individually is a much more solid format for this kind of information...but, maybe the movie's producer thought that people will be more attracted to a movie than a TV show.

Either way, "Food, Inc." is solid but not for the animal weak of heart.  Like "An Inconvenient Truth", "Food, Inc." will hopefully make people change their eating habits just a little to affect some change!

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 07/12/09