A blog about movies and filmmaking.


In Documentary on April 22, 2011 at 4:51 pm

For the purpose of this review, I’ll go with the abbreviated title of Morgan Spurlock’s newest movie; THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD. Actually, maybe I’ll just go with GMES – though that makes me think of Nintendo for whatever reason. But now I want a nice, cold Diet Coke (the officially unofficial drink of MOVIES 4 ME).

Yes, a whole paragraph that mentions a number of brands and not much about the movie…Welcome to our world.

Greatest Movie is the newest documentary from the man that brought us SUPER SIZE ME and WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN. It’s a great look behind the scenes in the wheeling and dealing of how so many recognizable brands get placed in our favorite movies, tv shows and school buses. (wait, what?) It’s a fascinating movie and is full of moments of hilarity, dastardly machinations, and even the pondering of just how much selling out is too much.

But the main thing that most will probably take away from GMES is just how prevalent product placement is. Since I watched it earlier this week, every time I mention Netflix, Hulu, Mt. Dew, World of Warcraft, 7/11, Jeep, Mane N Tail; I can’t help but think how the product placement overlords have broken through. Turning all of us consumers (cuz we’re not people anymore…) into living, breathing billboards for their products. And that is what this movie’s about.

It’s also about seeing Spurlock jump from one foot to the other in trying to please the corporate sponsors that he takes on to help create – and to also star in – his movie. As part of his contractual obligations, he has to create commercials – that are placed throughout the movie – for the specific products. Pom Wonderful, Hyatt, Merrell Shoes, etc. And we see him pitch the clearly tongue in cheek versions that he hopes the companies will let him get away with. He mentions that Pom’s juice apparently is a better form of erection-sustainer than Viagra – so he pitches a commercial where it reveals him walking around with a giant boner. Needless to say, while they “like” that idea, they’ve already created their own pitch on what they’d like to see. And it has a little more to do with telling the world – or the captive audience of thousands of people that will see this movie – that most of their competitors only have about 1% real pomegranate juice in their mixes (the rest is grape and apple) and so you should buy Pom Wonderful for that.

The movie has some pretty hilarious moments – whether it be the owners of the regional filling station company, SHEETZ, decrying how everyone might look at the people involved in this movie as idiots; or McDonald’s not even bothering to call him back (hmm…); and the surprising shock at some of the larger companies you’d think would love this idea (Volkswagon?). There’s also some very revealing and almost sinister procedures being used by marketing companies. People being CAT-scanned to see their reactions to commercials and the specific details that must be met in order to not be sued by the people paying for the movie (like Morgan can’t disparage the country of Germany).

Spurlock is always fun to watch. I love his dry, sardonic wit and the playfulness that he brings to whatever system he’s taking on. He also brings with him a number of fun supporting characters. Like the advertising exec’s and marketing companies that do their best to make this idea a profitable one – and at the same time try and get out some of the taboo-ish ideas they’ve always wanted to try (one guy says, with this title why not go obvious and do an homage to Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, with the major corporations as the disciples.); to the lawyer who pretty much says that even bad press – like his saying he’s only doing this consultation to be in the movie and therefore receive free promotion – will likely keep Morgan from being sued. Even to his trip to Florida and into a school district that is more than willing to sell advertising space on their playing fields and in their school buses to promote THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD. (And in a meeting with the school board, they even throw out other idea on how more money could be spent – to which you see that there are certain sectors that would be more than happy to take the money of corporate sponsorship, even if it’s supposed benefit is to better pay for their children’s education. But we all know that money will be filtered through, before it ever actually reaches the schools themselves.)

What’s the bigger point of the whole movie? I think it’s really just awareness. As I mentioned, since seeing this movie I’ve become pretty aware of how often I mention (or mentioned to me) brands and products to people – in just casual conversation – and even how ridiculous it is to see some of the marketing for movies and products that are coming out soon. Which, I’ll admit, makes this movie very timely – when we’re seeing commercials for THOR that are homages to commercials for VW, that starred a kid as a character from STAR WARS. We’re just in product placement/pop-culture meltdown.

Is the movie life changing? No. Just like I didn’t stop eating McDonald’s after seeing SUPER SIZE ME; (but then I never really cared for them much anyway…I’m more of a Subway kind of guy) the movie will come and go, and not do much to sway people one way or another. It’s like a nice conversation to be had. But, what Spurlock does, is leave images in your head when you’re downing that Big Mac value meal, you’ll remember the scene of him puking out his car window; or when your roommate asks if you want some M&M’s, you’ll flash back to Morgan talking to Ralph Nader and suddenly diverging the conversation into a promotion for Merrell Shoes.

So, for that the movie’s definitely worth a look.


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