Mocking Spurlock

The major brand docu director is promoting is himself

Posted: April 21, 2011

In his latest documentary, Morgan Spurlock reveals that Hollywood is compromised by commercial motives.

It turns out that when Robert Downey Jr. drives an Audi in the "Iron Man" movies, Audi is paying to place the car in the movie, and this "product placement" is really a form of advertising.

Hidden, sinister and designed to prey upon the uninformed, the vulnerable and . . . 

Wait, you know of this?

You're telling me everyone knows of this?

You're telling me fifth-graders know of this and make fun of it on Facebook?

You're telling me Morgan Spurlock should use his influential profile to make movies about unregulated derivatives or mountaintop mining or childhood obesity or Afghanistan?

Well, since, you put it that way, I have to agree.

Surely he has better things to do than "POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Story Ever Sold," a docu-stunt that finds Spurlock seeking/accepting outrageous brand placement in order to fund his inquiry into Hollywood's habit of using its own movies as ad platforms.

The inquiry is breezily entertaining and also highly uninformative - Spurlock's a funny fellow, but his instinct for first-person clowning sometimes prevents us from learning things. He meets a German scientist, for instance, who uses MRI scans to study the neurological impact of advertising on pleasure/fear centers in the brain. We await discourse on the Orwellian applications of these scary techniques, but instead Spurlock asks to crawl into the MRI tube, and all is lost to slapstick.

Then it's on to the next bit. There were really two subjects to Spurlock's famous "Supersize Me." One was "supersized" fast food - an important issue that needed public attention. The other was the "Me," and that is the subject that sometimes seems to interest Spurlock most.

The screaming irony in "Greatest Story" is that the brand Spurlock most flaunts here is his own, and instead of an honest self-critique of that opportunism, we get fake soul-searching about whether placing corporate brands in his movie - even self-consciously - compromises his art.

He consults Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader, facetiously seeking some ultraleft benediction for his scheme.

He should have consulted Banksy, who covered the art-commerce nexus with a ton more wit and sophistication in "Exit Through the Gift Shop."

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