Movie Review: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)

Posted: April 22, 2012 in Documentary
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Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock wants to expose the pervasive nature of branding and product placement in our society, so he plans to make a 1.5 million dollar movie, entirely funded by sponsors who in turn get free advertising from product placement in his documentary.  No advertising agency will touch this idea, so Spurlock calls up one of his friends who runs an ad agency.  The agency sets up interviews with a number of advertisers, like Ban deodorant, Mini Cooper cars, Hyatt Hotels as well as lesser-known companies like Sheetz gas stations, Amy’s pizza, and Hoof and Tail Shampoo for horses and people.  Spurlock continues to interview these clients and make ads for them to try to impress them.

Next, Spurlock goes to Brazil to show that the city of Sao Paolo Brazil no has an ordinance that bans advertising from city streets and buildings, and the people seem to like it fine.  He speaks to directors like Bret Radner of Rush Hour and Quentin Tarrentino of Inglorious Basterds, who don’t seem to mind an iota that product placement dominates Hollywood.  Spurlock then spotlights bands like OK Go, who don’t seem to mind selling their music to movies.  More importantly Spurlock shows the way that advertising is seeping into everyday life, from corporate named ballparks to local school districts placing advertising on their busses to supplement shrinking tax revenue.  Does Spurlock get his movie fully funded by corporate sponsors?  Does he expose the slow, steady corporatization of America?

I like Morgan Spurlock, and I hate product placement in movies, so this seemed like a natural fit for satire.  I think Spurlock’s documentaries Super Size Me and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden were great examples of satirical documentaries.  Spurlock seemed to breathe new life into a genre that had the life taken out of it by the politically motivated hit-pieces of Michael Moore.  But Spurlock abuses the principle of satire here, and really does sell out to the corporate lackies here.  He does full commercials during the movie, and it’s just what they want, lest he get sued, or the corporations pull their funding.  So Spurlock stops being satirist and starts being what he fears, a corporate shill.  This movie turns depressing when the viewer hears a director like Tarrantino saying he got turned down by Denny’s to use their restaurant for a scene in Reservoir Dogs,  so much for being a rebellious director.  And by skimming over the weightier issues of corporate named ballparks and advertising to fund public schools, this becomes a puff piece, when it could have been so much more.  There is one funny scene with “consumer watchdog” Ralph Nader and a pair of shoes, guess Ralph is a sell-out too.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.  Gets old, fast.

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