An overpowering stench of vanity production protrudes from Super Size Me, the documentary feature debut of one Morgan Spurlock (pictured right). The director and self-cast star sets out to prove that a steady diet of McDonald’s “food” can be hazardous to your health—as if evidence weren’t already in abundance. Each day for a month, he dines out on breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the ubiquitous Golden Arches. And guess what? We get to find out how ugly and stupid Americans are (natch) and Spurlock’s once-perfect health deteriorates. We watch him agonize through “McTummy aches” and bouts of depression. We listen to his vegan girlfriend complain that “…the saturated fats impede the blood flow to his penis—he’s havin’ a hard time gettin’ it up.” (Though, she confesses, the sex is “still good.”) We watch close-ups of him chewing grotesque, plastic-looking burgers, and when Spurlock vomits, the camera dutifully registers that as well. Spurlock also describes his gassiness; mercifully, Super Size Me never quite becomes a one-man La Grande Bouffe.
What emerges from all this (besides one compelling, brief interview with John Robbins on what it’s like to eat ice cream all the time) is the sense of observing a hoodwinking exhibitionist who wants us to adore him, to adore his sacrifice. Spurlock, who sports the makings of a handle-bar mustache (except that it curls downward into a goatee), preens and mugs in front of the camera like an ostensible cutie pie, his nearly naked form forever being weighed. His dialogue with the viewer consists primarily of: “Look at that! Look at that! That’s so gross! I’m strung out on ham!” He’s a real entertainer in addition to being a fearless muckraker for the cause of journalism—or so he would have himself and us believe. By the end, when Spurlock parades around in stars and stripes bikini briefs, I knew that Super Size Me, while it may have zero impact on mainstream America’s disastrous eating habits, will certainly launch Spurlock into a long career as a late night television guest. — NPT
April 15, 2004