SXSW Review: We Aren't Buying Morgan Spurlock's 'Greatest Movie Ever Sold'

by Drew Taylor
March 16, 2011 8:05 AM
8 Comments
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"POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" (yeah, that's actually the full title), Morgan Spurlock's new takedown of product placement in television shows and movies, starts out cleverly enough, with a sharp analysis of all the ways in which major corporations, in their limitless, greedy quest for the almighty dollar, wedge advertising into other aspects of entertainment. Hilarious clips from major motion pictures and television series are shown, including a snapshot of "90210," in which characters earnestly bicker while discussing (and prominently displaying) a can of Dr. Pepper.

But then the movie becomes something else, with Morgan Spurlock pitching a movie to corporations (like Pom juice, JetBlue airlines and Ban deodorant) that very much resembles the movie you're watching, with the goal to raise the money to pay for the movie. The big joke, of course, is that the product placement is paying for a satirical skewering of product placement. The only problem is the joke isn't that funny and in the end, the film never addresses any of the thorny issues associated with product placement and it ends up being a half-assed celebration of it, instead of some barbed condemnation.


One of the more attention grabbing segments of the film is a brief montage of Spurlock chatting about the issue of product placement with big shot Hollywood directors like Peter Berg and the dreaded Brett Ratner. At one point he speaks with JJ Abrams and then cuts to a clip of "Star Trek" when a young Kirk visibly uses a Nokia cell phone and, in the funniest moment, a typically lively Quentin Tarantino is chatting about the issue when the camera slowly pans out, revealing a bar of Ban deodorant on the table in between Spurlock and Tarantino.

But moments like these are typical of the movie's tone and intent. Instead of talking about how product placement is a sort of alternate way to fund big movies to the point that the only way a movie could be made is through the kickbacks associated with product placement or acknowledging that there are certainly ways in which the product placement can be somewhat slyly injected into films (as described in the recently released book "The Art of Immersion" by Frank Rose) the film is just a blanket statement about the evil that corrupts the otherwise pure-as-the-driven-snow world of… commercial films and television… Right.

Instead of thoughtful dissection, though, we get the kind of goofy, isn't-this-a-lark shit that made Morgan Spurlock a household name via his one-man science experiment "Super Size Me." There's a moment, when Spurlock is describing a commercial to the Pom people where he would be shown with a sizeable erection (since the juice is supposed to provide some Viagra-like properties) that caused the audience to giggle uncontrollably, but it's in this moment that the film seems to lose focus almost entirely.

What is "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," anyway? Because even Spurlock, as he pitches a line of documentary film-themed collector's cups to a bargain basement gas station chain and goes on talk shows sporting a NASCAR-like suit emblazoned with corporate logos, doesn't seem to know either. He's trying to be "open" and "honest" and "transparent" with the audience but the intent seems muddled, confused, half-formed, and doggedly unwilling to engage in some key discussions. Like everything else Spurlock is associated with, it's all answered with a shrug and a belly laugh. Only this time he's wearing sponsored footwear. [C-]

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8 Comments

  • Mike | May 24, 2012 5:03 PMReply

    Even Supersize me was garbage. The doctors at that non traditional medical clinic fudged all of the numbers to fit his bullshit claims. He has no talent, no appeal, the camera hates him and he makes up everything. It's like a bad reality show in movie form

  • Christopher Bell | May 24, 2012 5:59 PM

    Can you back this claim up please.

  • jim smith | April 19, 2011 3:09 AMReply

    This review nails it. The film was redundant, Spurlock was irritating, there's nothing deeply profound or critical about the whole affair, and it ultimately functions as a mere vehicle to advertise those companies that elected to buy product placements in the film. You get the "joke" after about 5 minutes, and are then subjected to the same schtick for the rest of the way. Between this film, the Spurlock directed section of Freakonomics, and the abysmal failure Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden, it's time to acknowledge this guy as a one trick pony who is annoying and lacking in talent. Can you try staying behind the camera and not getting in front of it Morgan? Or maybe put down that camera and get a day job?

  • Paul | March 17, 2011 2:45 AMReply

    Spurlock is the most charismatic documentarian of all time. I love everything he's done and look forward to seeing this.

  • Rob | March 16, 2011 11:29 AMReply

    I was in the audience at SXSW and I couldn't disagree more. What Spurlock accomplishes with this film is remarkable and beyond genius. This doc is a must see.

  • gregory | March 16, 2011 9:32 AMReply

    any chance of you guys reviewing "The Other F Word" at SXSW? Spurlock exec-produced the film and it seems like a Playlist-y doc: Punk rock dads deal with changing from being anti-authority figures to being the authority.

  • Christopher Bell | March 16, 2011 9:02 AMReply

    This is such a bummer. I loved "Super Size Me" and I dig "30 Days" but he's entering Michael Moore territory.

  • Dw Dunphy | March 16, 2011 8:32 AMReply

    And it appears that Ralph Nader is in it, which destroys any sort of credibility right there.

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