The Good: Moments of humor, Informative
The Bad: Very limited concept that is repetitively bludgeoned into viewers.
The Basics: Morgan Spurlock's latest documentary, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold explores the problematic aspect of product placement in movies without actually punching at the key moments.
Right now, I am in the process of following up my Best Picture Project (that's here!) with reviews of documentaries. So, while visiting family out of town, when I had the opportunity to watch Morgan Spurlock's new documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, I was actually pretty excited. I like a good documentary and Spurlock's certainly qualify. Moreover, there is a certain underdog quality to Spurlock's exposes and learning that The Greatest Movie Ever Sold only recouped about a third of its budget made me a little sad.
Part of the reason for feeling disappointed is that I liked The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, despite feeling like Spurlock made his point exceptionally early in the film and the feeling that he squandered some real opportunities for hard-hitting journalism. Actually, long after I felt Spurlock made his point, I was annoyed to actually see him interview someone I hoped he might hold accountable (more than that later) and was unpleasantly surprised when he let him go. C'est la vie.
Morgan Spurlock is tired of seeing advertisements everywhere, but especially in movies and on television. Product placement in movies and television has been rising in the last few years and so Spurlock seeks to explore just what kind of movie he can make with corporate sponsorship exposing corporate sponsorship in movies. He approaches the big name corporations, but it is Ban, JetBlue, Sheetz, GMC and Pom Wonderful that actually invests in making his documentary in exchange for prominent product placement.
And that's it. Spurlock figures the film's budget at $1.5 million and he finds the sponsors needed to make the documentary and with that money - other than creating an advertisement for POM Wonderful, JetBlue and Hair & Mane shampoo - is interview prominent directors of the day on their feelings about product placement in movies.
It is in interacting with directors that Spurlock pulls his punches. After getting a truly inspired story out of Quentin Tarantino, Spurlock lets J.J. Abrams off the mat. J.J. Abrams managed to do in the first twenty minutes of Star Trek (reviewed here!) what everyone associated with the franchise managed to avoid in the prior forty years of the franchise: sell out. When Abrams directed Star Trek, he prominently featured Nokia in the film and while that might be expected considering his show Alias got boku advertising dollars from the company, it was noticeably out of place in Trek. Spurlock included that clip from Star Trek and does not call Abrams on its use when he had the opportunity to interview him.
The result is a documentary DVD that has a serious lack of punch. Spurlock proves early enough in the movie that corporate sponsorship of movies is antithetical to artistic license, but then he does very little with the premise. Sure, we get a tour of Sao Paolo where billboards were outlawed, but there is less substance to why the advertisements in movies is a problem. After all, despite all of the rejections Spurlock gets for his concept, he finds corporate sponsorship to make his documentary.
Ultimately, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is entertaining, but after it makes its point early on, it does nothing significant with the idea that Spurlock is objecting to. Yes, art is getting its ass kicked in the war between art and commerce, but Spurlock just seems content to note that as opposed to make any daring sort of commentary on it or propose any radical solution to it. That makes for a less thrilling documentary than I would hope for, though it is entertaining and worth seeing.
For other documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
Capitalism: A Love Story
The Cream Will Rise
For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.