Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Most Boring Movie Ever Watched: Morgan Spurlock’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Disclaimer: I fell asleep during this movie. Granted, it was the late movie on a Tuesday night after a full day of work, a softball game, and endless errands. It’s also not the first time I’ve turned the cinema into my personal napping studio. But still, after Super Size Me (2004), I had grand expectations for Spurlock’s next documentary. I’m not a cinephile or a film connoisseur. I’m just an ordinary moviegoer hoping to learn something and be diverted for a few hours. Super Size Me confronted us and demanded that we reconsider the consequences of every empty calorie we consume. I hoped for a similar challenge with POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. I expected Spurlock to ask the tough questions about product placement, selling-out and the effect advertising has on rampant consumerism.

I received no such challenge. The film was essentially a poorly-edited and loosely-connected series of meetings that Spurlock arranged in an attempt to secure sponsorships for his film. One reviewer pointed out that this is cleverly “very meta.” Fair enough, but it would also be “very meta” to catalog a book about the Dewey Decimal system – and equally as dull. Many of us spend our lives attending meetings and can think of nothing more monotonous that watching someone else do the same thing for two hours with no comic or cunning interpretation. It’s this interpretive twist that makes the mundane mischievous. Consider the TV show The Office: who would have thought it would be entertaining to watch pedestrian clerical workers all day? Yet the result is wildly amusing, an acute depiction of the ridiculousness of office life. Spurlock had the same potential with this movie, but missed the mark.

A scene from The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Conversely, another reviewer claims that Spurlock “shoots straight enough that the audience can make up its own mind” (you’ll have to excuse me; I had to pore through other reviews to make up for what I slept through). Again, I concede the point. The film was exceedingly straightforward and not the least bit leading. But don’t we want to be led, or at least guided? Isn’t the filmmaker supposed to have some point of view, even in a fact-based documentary? The film was all exposition, no persuasion. I realize that we need to be told the whole story, but we also need a narrator. I could gather the facts myself, but I go to the movies to get the insight that pure facts cannot deliver. Unfortunately, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold did not deliver either.

It wasn’t all a wash. The segment on identifying your personal brand was useful. This is something that we don’t do enough: treat our lives like a business. It’s amazing how, on a personal level, people will amass large amounts of debt, kindle unfruitful alliances, or engage in aimless activities, when they wouldn’t dream of doing these things in a commercial context. Approaching our lives as we would a company is a powerful metaphor that, most of the time, will lead us to make the right choices. Watching Spurlock learn what his personal brand stands for and align his relationships appropriately inspired me to be more entrepreneurial about my own personal brand. Spurlock’s brand was summarized as ‘playful meets mindful’ and jibes with corporate brands like Apple, JetBlue Airlines, and Mini. This left me wondering about what I want my personal brand to be and scared that my corporate counterparts aren’t near as cool as Spurlock’s.

Director Morgan Spurlock
POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (apparently that’s the official title) did get me examining product placement in other films. While watching The Next Three Days, the abundance of Toyota vehicles was strikingly obvious. The line “What kind of criminal drives a Prius? The socially responsible kind” confirmed that Toyota must have paid big bucks to get their cars in the movie. For a moment I felt like I was watching a commercial. I would have loved if Spurlock provided some sort of insight into how much more likely I am to buy a Toyota after seeing The Next Three Days. But once again, Spurlock neglected to ask and answer the truly intriguing questions about in-film advertising and product placement.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys looking at pictures of your friends’ vacations and appreciates the minutiae of others’ lives, you might find this movie interesting. If, however, you are like me, and prefer the opinion to the objective, you’ll spend the whole time wondering what Spurlock actually thinks (if you don’t fall asleep, that is).

 Mari-Beth Slade is a food and wine lover, wayward librarian and would-be philosopher. She works as a marketer for an accounting firm in Halifax, but spends most days doing yoga poses at her desk or brainstorming discussion topics for her book club.

1 comment:

  1. The most boring ever watched. I felt exactly the same, it had no kick to it and after watching I felt no change in how I see things what so ever. I totally agree with every word. Summary: boring and lame, like watching paint dry.