Martin Spurlock is no stranger to pop-documentary audiences. You’ll remember him from his debut film Supersize Me, wherein the director subjects himself to a month-long McDiet of fastfood to demonstrate the effects on his body (Supersize Me is also responsible for one of my least favorite posters of all time, which in turn inspired dozens of doc posters featuring closeups of men’s faces with things protruding from their mouths).
With The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Spurlock once again puts himself on the line—only this time it’s all in the name of financing the film we’re watching. The documentary is about product placement advertising in film and television, and in attempt to demonstrate the practice to the fullest, the director seeks out companies to sponsor his movie.
The film is hilarious. Martin Spurlock is a fantastic character, it’s very well edited, and I laughed throughout the entire thing. Some of the best laughs came from the eventual product placements themselves. As we learn about the deals Spurlock is landing, the companies’ products and locations start to appear more and more throughout the film. The placement is blatant and often exaggerated, offering a little wink to the audience.
The people Spurlock managed to get access to is actually quite amazing. There’s a slew of A-list directors talking with him one-on-one, and he sits down (and jokes with) the likes of Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader.
As much as I enjoyed the movie, I can’t say I learned much about product placement. The movie becomes more about advertising—and the constant assault of ads—in general. Spurlock even travels to São Paulo to talk to the city about their initiative to rid the city of “visual pollution” and outlaw outdoor advertising. What does this have to do with the documentary’s theme? I’m still not quite sure.
The film is certainly entertaining, but not as informative as I’d hoped. At 88 minutes, it’s definitely better than a lot of the other material out there. It’s on Netflix Canada, if you’re interested.
If you can find it playing in a cinema, I’m sure the producers would appreciate it too: the film’s biggest sponsor, POM Wonderful, gave them one million dollars, subject to the film grossing at least $10 million at the box office. To date, they’ve raised less than 10% of that.