If you can’t beat them, join them. That’s the approach sensationalist documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?) takes in his latest project, a film all about advertising and product placement. The gimmick this time around is that the entire film was funded by, and is brimming with, product placement and advertising. Revelling in its own ridiculousness, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, while not in the least bit informative, is still an absolute comedic treat. Funny, self-aware, self-reflexive and absurd, it laughs in the faces of sell-outs all the way to the bank.
The film chronicles Spurlock as he attempts to convince corporations to advertise in his movie. Approaching companies as varied as airlines, fast food restaurants, hotel chains and of course the titular juice company, understandably the initial reaction is not particularly positive – after all, why would a CEO want to advertise in a film that is all about making fun of exactly that? Of course through a combination of Spurlock’s charisma, the willingness of a few individual companies to take a risk on a new idea, as well as some numbers crunching that proved this thing might actually work, Spurlock eventually gets the money to pay for the film that he has already started making. In addition to his board-room hi-jinks, Spurlock interviews a wide range of people, from lawyers, advertisers, musicians, politicians and media advocates, as well as filmmakers including J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino. And he’s sipping on Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice while he does it.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold offers no particularly ground-breaking insight into the world of advertising. Just as with Supersize Me, where Spurlock’s thesis was essentially “eating McDonalds will make a person fat”, in this film he is simply saying “advertising is everywhere”. In both cases, the appropriate reaction would probably be “well, duh”. But this is not a documentary about educating us. This is well and truly a piece of entertainment, and Morgan Spurlock is a born entertainer. Grinning his way merrily through interviews, we watch him sell, sell, sell his advertisers products with such a brazen glee that it would make even the most soulless corporate executive blush. And you’ve got to admire the gall. Wherever he travels, he’s put up in a Hyatt Hotel. To every business meeting, he pulls up in a brand new Mini Cooper convertible.
As shameless as it is shamelessly funny, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is not socially conscious or intellectually profound. Spurlock makes a few good points, and will certainly succeed in making audiences think more about the advertisements they see every day (you won’t be able to watch Iron Man the same way again, that’s for sure). Mostly though, Spurlock just wants to make you laugh. And in that regard, the movie is a considerable success.
Tom Clift is a web-based film journalist from Melbourne, Australia. Visit his website here: http://reviewsbytom.blogspot.com.
You can read all of Tom Clift’s coverage of MIFF 2011 here.