Dir: Morgan Spurlock
It’s an engaging, if very self-referential idea. Spurlock, having savaged the hand of corporate America in Super Size Me, now stretches out his own hand to them. He’s seeking sponsorship to fund his new documentary – which is about companies who sponsor films in exchange for product placement, covering the process and whether such unacknowledged advertising is moral. He has to pitch the concept to what appears to be hundreds of companies, most of whom give him the cold-shoulder, which is understandable given the hatchet-job he did on McDonalds.
But along the way, he also discovers some truths about the role modern marketing plays, even in our schools; travels to Sao Paolo where the city has banned all public advertising; speaks to those involved from Ralph Nader to Brett Ratner, and tries to balance the need to avoid offending his corporate sponsors in the film, with the need to remain true to his maverick, documentarian self. The last is the most obvious failure, because it’s an impossible tension to sustain, when you’ve decided your only source of funding is corporations. They’re not dumb, and even if they didn’t get the final cut some apparently wanted, they won’t pay you to fart in their face. And one wonders where the $1.5 million budget raised supposedly went, given there are no actors, special effects, script or anything on which it would seem possible to spend money.
I think it’s like a bit of a cheat too, since the sponsors that result are largely through Spurlock’s pals: much as I like the idea of swanning into a company’s office and asking them to give you money, which is basically what he does. More fun is spotting the ever-increasing product placement as things develop, and the weirdly sterile environment in Sao Paolo is also memorable. Spurlock comes off as affable enough, yet has a vaguely untrustworthy vibe and I certainly wouldn’t hand over any six-figure sums to put my product in his film. It’s a mess of a documentary, yet is generally interesting enough to watch, even if any skeptic will largely be aware already, of just about everything it mentions.