Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thoughts on the film: Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Saturday afternoon the Beefcake and I headed off to the Arclight Hollywood, one of the few theaters in the country that screened Morgan Spurlock's new Film, Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

We got swag. As we handed the guy our tickets and he handed us two coupons ("The Greatest Coupon Ever Printed"), a sample packet of Seventh Generation laundry detergent and a full stick of Ban deodorant. Sweet. Now we don't have to go to the drug store after the movie.

I do love the Arclight when it's not packed, because you don't have to do the mad rush to get a good seat and you don't have to watch commercials, which is a bit ironic given the nature of the film we are about to watch.

If you haven't heard about this film yet, it's about Spurlock trying to get product placement in his movie about product placement. There are scenes in the movie where he talks about how those scenes will be in the movie.

The film itself is pretty funny. Morgan Spurlock's greatest gift is turning the camera on absurdity and laughing at it. The man had more fun with the idea of Main and Tail shampoo than I've ever seen anyone have with hair care products, and it made what could have been really dry material a blast to watch.

We all knew McDonald's wasn't healthy, but when we saw just how much damage an all-McDonald's diet did to Spurlock's body, I think we were all kind of amazed. That's a bit of what's missing here. We all know product placement exists, and we all know advertising is all around us. I didn't come out of this film feeling blown away by a new experience.

That's not to say there was nothing to learn here. Spurlock goes through the process from beginning to end - how you get those products in your film, the kind of sacrifices you have to make, the kind of ridiculous requests corporations make of the filmmakers. And it was horrifying to hear the story of the guy who bullied a director into product placement by threatening to cripple his production. There was a lot of really good stuff here, and again, it was fun to watch. Spurlock is nothing if not fun.

In the end, I'm not sure what we were supposed to learn, and maybe that's the point. Some documentaries are more about asking questions than drawing conclusions. This could be one of them. Beefcake and I came out debating what the point was. Everyone's a sell-out? Product placement is just a part of life that we should get used to? Horse shampoo is hilarious?

I don't know. Maybe I'm not supposed to.

So if Spurlock's goal was to make me have fun, laugh, and ponder product placement in the films I see, he has succeeded.


  1. Maybe Spurlock's next project will be product placement in schools (overview, ), and his wife's a healthy chef, maybe she'd be up to adding a Jamie Oliver twist to things.

    Commerce and entertainment, seem like a natural, age-old, fit, I suspect commerce will always follow our gaze, try to capture our attention. But commerce and profit don't need to be everywhere, and it'd be cool if Spurlock brought his entertaining and informative gaze to the matter.

  2. He actually does touch on that in the film. Not very thoroughly, and he doesn't talk about the soda machines, but he does visit a school and get some ads put up there.

    Like I said, there's no HOLY SHIT factor to this movie, which is its only flaw. He seemed more interested in satirizing product placement than exposing its evil underbelly.

  3. Underbelly usually where the real fun is.

    My initial reaction, to hearing about Greatest Movie, feels like a "betcha can't make a movie by..." bet. Most surprising, that companies still happy to product place in film, so avoiding underbelly kept fun light, but still with surface edge (the satire), a welcome association for most brands.

    I'm fascinated by artists, and how they manage to work, throughout the ages. Always, a reliance on those with money, because artists need food. Da Vince, Galileo, all those lovely creative folk, shaped their gaze and work to suit their benefactors, had to schmooze their way to studio space and equipment. The smartest of them made great work that stood the test of time despite also satisfying whatever ego or corporate requirements were in place.

    That there was swag at movie, very funny, Spurlock gets point for that.


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