Morgan Spurlock‘s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Sony Classics, 4.22) is a divided experience. 50% of it…make that 66% is a possibly audacious, mildly amusing, totally transparent hall-of-mirrors doc about Spurlock humorously “selling out,” which is to say trying to fund a doc about product placement (i.e., this one) entirely with product placement deals while — this is fundamental — winking at the audience and therefore not “really” selling out but commenting on it and delivering if you will the irony of it all.
The other 33% is about Spurlock and his film taking it up the ass for real, selling the shit out of every sponsor’s product (including Pom Wonderful), smiling like hell, turning on the charm and going “are you getting what we’re up to here? This is a kind of black comedy because the sell-out idea has been our intention from the get-go. You get that, right?” Yeah, I get it, I get it. But I wonder what it adds up to.
The fact is that The Greatest Movie Ever Sold isn’t angry or accusatory enough to mean anything in a conventional Michael Moore “this is bad and you should be mad!” sense, and it’s so friggin’ stuffed with ads and product lines and advertisements and marketing meetings and statistics that after a half-hour or so it makes you feel like it’s related on some genetic level to Don Siegel‘s The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Hundreds of thousands of flat-bed trucks carryng large seed pods have been delivering for decades, and free-spirit types like Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter…well, how very quaint.
During one of the very few non-ironic “instructive” points in the doc Spurlock visits Sao Paolo, Brazil, and learns about the government’s policy to completely ban all outdoor ads. The reason, says one official, is that with ads blanketing everything “we were losing our city” (or something close to that). The Sao Paolo section was a good idea, but Spurlock doesn’t want to lecture so when he returns to the US he goes right back to hustling and winking and rolling around in cross-promotional opportunity.
It’s not a boring film and is a very intelligent and thoughtful exercise all in all, but it’s somewhat tiring to sit through — I must say that because it’s true. Spurlock’s is “saying” something here, and at the same time not really saying anything…and yet he is. His best film is still Super-Size Me.
I saw The Greatest Movie Ever Sold last night at Pete Hammond‘s KCET class at the TV Academy theatre in Burbank, and then stayed for a q & a between Hammond and Spurlock.