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"Super Size Me"

Directed by Morgan Spurlock.
Written by Morgan Spurlock.
Release Year:  2004 
Review Date:  5/2/04


The closing film for the 2004 Filmfest DC was the new documentary by writer/director Morgan Spurlock, "Super Size Me", so my buddy Mike "Yac" Iacovone and I took in the Sunday afternoon show.  Spurlock himself came to introduce the film, which was a nice touch, and he even stuck around to hear fans scream the praises of his new work afterwords.

Praises came easily since the film is just so damned good.  As most of you know by now, Spurlock's film has garnered national acclaim over the last four months as it has made its run from Sundance darling to critical bonanza; it has had such an effect on the fast food culture that McDonald's itself--although never publicly acknowledging the film--has decided to phase its Super Size drink and fries sizes out of the lineup.  This is because of Spurlock's experiment, which details what happens to a man that tries to eat only McDonald's food for 90 consecutive meals...a claim that McDonald's said would not be harmful to the average American if eaten in moderation.

As we find out over the course of the film...boy, were they wrong.  As Spurlock's three doctors and his vegan girlfriend watch in horror over the next month, the subject puts on weight, suffers a number of physical, psychological & emotional effects and walks so little that he falls completely out of shape.  We knew this would happen all along, though, so what does Spurlock have to really say to us about this current state of affairs?

Spurlock does a good job of addressing this last question during various parts of the film; by consistently showing that his experiment is meant to be extreme, he can concentrate on giving us other aspects of America's fast food culture that are meant to shock the average viewer, who may be learning about some of these things for the first time.  Most alarming to me may have been the film's extended segment on school cafeterias and the eating habits of today's children; not because this was news to me (my two kid sisters have been alerting me to this for years now, and I ate with my sister Cate at her school a couple years ago), but because I was stunned to watch so many children eating just candy and sodas for THEIR ENTIRE LUNCH in interviews with the director.  Even when I was a kid I know that vegetables and fruits were not good friends of mine (at least at lunch), but I remember drinking milk or water with a sandwich and some pretzels or something like that...just a brief scene where Spurlock talks to about a dozen kids at a lunch table, all of whom are eating some form of Ding Dong, Ho-Ho or Twinkie with a Coke as their LUNCH, not DESSERT for their lunch, I was sitting there appalled.  After the film, Spurlock talked about another machine in that cafeteria that didn't get any screen time--a Slurpee machine, straight outta 7-11!!  They had this right next to the pizza heat lamps!  Brain freeze right there at school!

Spurlock's cameraman also does an incredible job of finding large asses of extremely fat people better than any cameraperson in the history of film.  Some of the asses in "Super Size Me" made audience members turn away, they were so large, cottage-cheesy and just plain nasty.  In fact, for my money, if the MTV Movie Awards creates a category for Ass Work on Screen (much like a hilarious parody MTV did last year with Vince Vaughn as some made-up "Ass Technician" working on the "Charlie's Angels" films), then "Super Size Me" will win major awards next year to add to its Sundance Best Director Award.  Now that I'm thinking about it, this is the kind of film that overweight and obese people should definitely see...but, from the fat shots, to the fat bashing that many of its talking heads seem to enjoy, to the sheer "Hey Joe Obese Guy, get on that treadmill!" message of the film, expect to be uncomfortable if you are overweight as you watch this film, because by the time we have to sit through a VERY tough-to-watch gastro-like thingy (I'm forgetting the term for "tummy shrinking" surgery), a lot of people in the theater were begging for mercy.

The mix of scenes as we watch Spurlock do his McDiet matched with these informational pieces on the state of the union in the U.S. does wonders for "Super Size Me", a great film that starts out being a comedy and ends up teaching you a little something about taking it easy on that Super/Biggie/Value-sized drink.  It won't change the world, but it might make you think twice about those McNuggets...

(opens in major markets Friday; opens nationwide soon after)

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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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09