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Documentary maker Morgan Spurlock decides to eat nothing but McDonald's fare for 30 days. While a team of medical experts monitors his physical condition, Spurlock conducts an investigation into the fast-food industry in the USA and its connection with the costly problem of obesity. As Spurlock's physical condition deteriorates to an alarming degree, he suggests that collusion of big business and government agencies has made America the overweight capital of the world.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
The Purple Heart for cinematic bravery goes to Morgan Spurlock for eating what amounted to eight year's worth of junk food in a month and living to tell the tale. His documentary may have a crazy stunt as its selling point but there's a serious and very disturbing issue at its centre. Hitting us with a barrage of statistics in the opening minutes, we learn that two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese and almost 40% of teenagers have too much fat in their bodies. Interviews with health officials, doctors and school food administrators are used as a dynamic counterpoint to the rapid deterioration in Spurlock's physical condition as he serves his 30 day McDonald's sentence.

While we may feel that there's nothing particularly new in the evidence he presents, there's no denying the effectiveness of his body-abuse programme in getting the message across. His act - part crusading journalist, part freak show exhibit - is an entertaining one and it's his showmanship as much as anything that manages to sustain the idea for the full ninety minutes. Scenes of him vomiting after shovelling down yet another quarter pounder or big mac may be gross but the real horror arrives when Spurlock's team of doctors, nutritionists and cardiologists present their findings.

From a position of near-perfect health at the outset he gains 10 pounds in the first 5 days. Later his liver begins to collapse (his doctor describes it as "paté" and compares it to Nicholas Cage's booze-bombed organ in Leaving Las Vegas) and his vegan chef girlfriend Alexandra Jamieson gives a no-holds barred description of the couple's deteriorating sex life. In scenes that should scare every parent, he visits school canteens and discovers the institutionalised delivery of heavily processed food from the moment kindergarten begins. There's also an hilarious animated sequence detailing just what a McDonald's chicken McNugget consists of and enough footage of waddling human wrecks to convince us that even if Spurlock is making an extreme example of himself, he's not exaggerating all that much.

It's a sad fact of life in Australia that some children's sporting teams are being sponsored by junk food companies and sugary snack bars and lollipops have replaced the humble orange as half-time sustenance. Spurlock's film "inspired" McDonalds to drop the hideous Super Size option from its menu and we should hope that its release here would at least up the debate on what we feed our kids and ourselves. If there's any documentary that deserves to be mandatory viewing in schools, this is it.

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CAST: Documentary with Morgan Spurlock, Dr. Daryl Isaacs

PRODUCER: J.R. Morley, Heather M. Winters

DIRECTOR: Morgan Spurlock

SCRIPT: Morgan Spurlock


EDITOR: Stela Georgieva, Julie Bob Lombardi

MUSIC: Doug Ray

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes




VIDEO RELEASE: November 10, 2004

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