This film has one of the most interesting concepts I've encountered for a while - a documentary about sponsorship and product placement, all funded by sponsorship and product placement, with the plot centring around the director Morgan Spurlock's attempts to secure the film's sponsorship and product placement. The first question that comes to mind is, how can a director such as Spurlock - who has infamously flirted with anti-corporate controversy in his breakthrough film, Super Size Me [DVD] [2004
], a documentary in which he eats nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days - maintain his integrity as a documentary-maker, whilst earning 100% of the film's funding from corporate sponsors?
The idea sounds like it has the potential for complete disaster, but the finished product is nowhere near this. The result is surprisingly adept, handled with versatility and self-deprecation. He strikes a delicate balance between delivering his message and displeasing his sponsors. Whilst hardly a searing critique of mass-media and capitalism in the style of Naomi Klein's No Logo
(which isn't surprising given the film's premise), it takes a teasing and self-reflexive glance at product placement. We see Spurlock setting up meetings with potential sponsors, pitching sometimes absurd ideas for product placement (his idea for highlighting the erection-inducing qualities of pomegranate juice is a delight), and as deals are made the products then weave themselves into the film's narrative. The product placements are so obvious and self-conscious that viewers can hardly take them seriously.
None of the sponsors were allowed to have final approval of the film, but it makes me wonder how much of Spurlock's self-censorship influenced the final edit - the fear of lawsuits him might have indirectly influenced the outcome of the film. He interviews media and consumer rights activists to show a counterpoint to the cringeworthy management-speak of the featured sponsors, but I can't help thinking that interviewees as infamous as Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky had their ideas significantly diluted. I wonder how Super Size Me would have turned out if it had been sponsored by McDonald's?
Overall, if you're hoping for a daring criticism of shameless mass-media advertising you might be disappointed, but this is still an enjoyable and tongue-in-cheek documentary with plenty of interesting ideas, and it's certainly worth a watch.