By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin April 22, 2011 at 4:15AM
Morgan Spurlock has a gift for creating movies that, like his signature piece SuperSize Me, offer a provocative “hook,” entertain an audience, and still manage to address serious subject matter. Like Michael Moore, he plays an integral role in his films, although his everyman persona is more benign than Moore’s—and therefore, more deceptive. The bemused smile on his face may fool some people into believing he doesn’t have a strong point of view, but he does: like the man from Michigan, Spurlock is a muckraker.
All of that serves him—and us—quite well in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. His goal is to explore the effect of ubiquitous advertising in our lives, and his focal point is the practice of—
—product placement in movies and television shows. By revealing the process, as he goes about trying to recruit corporate “partners” to fund his project, and making that the movie’s hook, he manages to put a lighthearted face on a dead-serious issue.
Spurlock also allows us to think for ourselves. When he takes us inside a high-level meeting with a potential sponsor he doesn’t paint the executives in a negative or positive light: we can decide that on our own. When he inserts actual commercials for participating products, he doesn’t comment on them, either. It’s up to us to determine if they undermine or underscore his point.
To me, the most striking passage in the movie is a visit to Sao Paolo, Brazil, where outdoor advertising has been banned. There are no billboards, no ads on the sides of buildings, nothing on buses or taxis. The mayor refers to such clutter as “visual pollution.” (On this point I couldn’t agree more, and I live at the epicenter of visual pollution: Los Angeles, where every conceivable open space is up for sale.)
Spurlock’s philosophy is simple: he believes that if you’re laughing, you’re receptive to learning. This movie made me laugh out loud. I recommend it wholeheartedly, as entertainment and as food for thought.