With his 2004 documentary Super Size Me, director Morgan Spurlock suffered through a month of a McDonald's-only diet — and garnered an Oscar nomination. In the years since, the stunt-documentarian has yet to match that film's acclaim, despite such titles as What Would Jesus Buy? (2007) and Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? (2008). This weekend, he returns to the multiplex, er... the indie cinema, with the cheekily titled POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. (Watch a trailer for the film here.) Critics can't decide if Spurlock's meta-examination of movie product placement is a genius expose or an obvious yawn. Is The Greatest Movie Ever Sold any good?
It's eye-opening: The film is "a genius little gimmick" that "shine[s] a light on a trend that's only getting more prevalent, and more shameless," says Christy Lemire for the Associated Press. Most viewers probably aren't aware of all the behind-the-scenes deals required for product placement in movies, and Spurlock reveals it in a "hugely entertaining" way. Too bad he didn't take it further and try to "prove that product placement actually influences consumer habits."
"Review: Spurlock sells out for Greatest Movie"
This may be the director's best film yet: This "is the movie Morgan Spurlock was put on Earth to make," says Matt Zoller Seitz at Salon. Or, at least, it's a lot better than his previous films, including Super Size Me. The "playful structure" keeps things moving, and "Spurlock is an utterly charming hustler." It all adds up to an "ingeniously constructed look at product placement."
"Morgan Spurlock sells out"
Nope, I'm not buying it: "The movie is a condescendingly narrated demonstration of how money makes the movie world go round," says Eric Hynes in Time Out New York. "Stop the presses." What the film sets out to expose — the prevalence of product placement — is pretty obvious, and Spurlock's schtick quickly wears thin. He seems to think "he's actually suffering for our capitalistic sins — like some bumper-sticker-branded Jesus," but really, "his perfunctory self-righteous pose might be the hardest sell of all."
"The Greatest Movie Ever Sold"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Ted Cruz is the new Sarah Palin
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- Why you probably don't have Ebola — even if you shook hands with America's 'patient zero'
- Why America won't have enough money to battle ISIS
Subscribe to the Week