From the director of Supersize Me!
I walked into Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary when it was titled The Greatest Movie Ever Sold – and walked out to an email press release that the title had changed to POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. That was just one of the many terrifically tricky things about this film, which twists itself around in so many meta narratives about product placement and filmmaking that by the end you barely even know what month you’re in. Spurlock’s movie, of course, is superbly entertaining, an irreverent and sardonic look at product placement and how completely corporations can, and do, control the movie business. I’m not convinced that any of this is actually revelatory or incisive but that doesn’t take away from the sheer entertainment and frequently sad truths in Spurlock’s film.
The film darts along beautifully as Spurlock documents his quest to fund a documentary – the very documentary we’re watching – entirely through product placement. After a jazzy opening briefly running down all the product placement we see on a daily basis, Spurlock takes us through his meetings with branding experts, marketing execs and company CEOs. His goal: To convince multinational corporations to buy product placement in a movie that most definitely will be tearing down the very process. But once the sponsors step on board, Spurlock is true to his word, drinking POM Wonderful in every shot, conducting interviews at a JetBlue Terminal, driving a Mini Cooper, and, in one hilarious scene, pitching Ralph Nader on his comfortable Merrell shoes. The companies that join in Spurlock’s stunt make a crazy kind of sense, each of them aiming for that off-the-wall appeal that Spurlock has had since Super Size Me.
In addition to all the executives and advertisers who help him on his crazy quest, Spurlock meets with an enormous variety of people who know a thing or two about consumers and branding, from Hollywood directors like Peter Berg and Brett Ratner (who unleashes the amazing line ‘Artistic integrity? Whatever’) to NPR’s ‘On the Media’ host Bob Garfield and linguist Noam Chomsky. Two members of the band OK Go! talk about selling their music to commercials entirely because of the money, Outkast’s Big Boi explains they never did a ‘Got Milk?’ ad because Andre 3000 didn’t drink the stuff, and Quentin Tarantino admits he tried to get Denny’s on board for that famous diner in Pulp Fiction, to no effect.
Even if it doesn’t teach you much that you didn’t know about product placement, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold opens your eyes a bit about the process, both of the ads and the movies they pay to be part of. It’s a strange journey well worth taking.
– Katie Rich, Cinema Blend