Branding, advertising and product placement is all around us, trying to sell us everything from shampoo to fast food to sports cars (and so forth). So which documentarian is better to take a close look at that world than Morgan Spurlock, the man behind the hugely successful fast food doc Super Size Me?
Spurlock goes beyond the bounds of a normal documentary – a normal movie, no matter the genre – and makes about branding, advertising and product placement entirely funded by branding, advertising and product placement. It’s a fantastically savvy idea and for the most part Spurlock pulls it off.
The movie actually follows Spurlock as he attempts to get advertisers to invest in the making of the movie. That’s it, that’s the “plot.” And that may seem boring, almost like it could be the making-of featurette on the eventual DVD to go along with the actual movie. But for a good hour of its runtime Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (as is its official full-length name) is entertaining and engaging, taking a very daunting subject matter – what with the sheer scale of the advertising business and how much it is integrated into our everyday lives – and making it fun.
Spurlock did the same thing with Super Size Me (I never did see Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?), although here it feels like he’s being altogether more open and honest with everything. Not that Super Size Me wasn’t a very well made and enjoyable documentary, but where that one might have felt more one-sided, this effort is far more balanced and therefore there’s a lot more to go away and ponder.
What perhaps makes Spurlock’s documentaries so entertaining is the man himself. He stands just the right side of confident without stepping to cocky or arrogant and shows both a genuine investment in whatever subject he is dissecting/showcasing while still remembering to be an engaging presence, an everyman type figure we can journey through it all with. Advertising is such a huge topic to focus on Spurlock filters it in a way only he can.
The film is not without its faults, however. Even at a short 90 minutes it does feel a bit stretched, with several segments that feel like filler or just rehashes of points that have already been made 20 minutes prior. Also, it sometimes only grazes the surface of certain aspects of product placement when it should have gone a lot deeper (for example when it simply touches on product placement in prime-time TV).
For the most part, though, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is an interesting, breezy and all around fun look at the world of branding, advertising and product placement, pulling the curtain back on an industry that is all about getting you to buy things without you necessarily being fully aware that you’ve been coerced. And the fact that Spurlock made the movie using funds from advertising gives it a brilliant edge.