Review by Nathan Samdahl (B-)
Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold has everything you want from a Morgan Spurlock documentary: creativity, humor and definitely a style-over-substance approach. While examining how advertising and brands have assimilated themselves into nearly every aspect of our lives, Spurlock goes on a hilarious journey to accomplish his most important goal - to fund his film solely through brand integration.
After quickly being rejected by a bevy of the big name brands (he supposedly approached more than 600), Spurlock slowly but surely assembles a motley crew of brands, including Pom Wonderful, which shelled out $1 million to be the film's marquee brand (quite literarily as the title suggests).
Most of these brand partners are of no surprise; JetBlue and Old Navy, for example, always seem to pride themselves on being trendy and creative. Other brands are a bit less obvious but make sense when you look at their placement within their respective industries, i.e. Ban, Merrill and Sheetz.
All of these companies supply a hilarious cast of characters. The CEO of Sheetz and the people from Mane ‘n Tail were my favorites (and yes, that's a shampoo for both people and horses).
In a mind-boggling feat, Spurlock juggles 20 different brand contracts, each stipulating very specific do's and don'ts as well as required commercial time within the film, etc. He even saves on lawyer fees by giving several of them screen time in lieu of their stiff hourly fees.
Throughout the film, Spurlock continuously asks himself if he is quite literally selling out by making the film as he does. How can he be hard hitting and critical of product placement when he is funding his film off of it? Well, unfortunately, he really can't. As much as Spurlock brings forth a collection of consumer/brand specialists on both sides of the argument, I couldn't help feel that quite a few punches were being pulled.
Content-wise, I didn't feel as enlightened as I did after Super Size Me, which was able to stick it to the fast food industry much more than he could with the brands here (in fact, you really admire most of the brands involved since they had the balls to poke a little fun at themselves).
Spurlock's approach here is a bit surface level, exploring the product placement process, but really only within the context of his own film, not so much with some of the recent big budget films (i.e. GM in Transformers). Perhaps the process is similar, but I'm guessing there is more to it.
In the end, Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is really more of a fun and engaging film experiment. There certainly is nothing quite like it. I hope for the sake of film and all of us, however, that this exact approach to film funding does not translate over into narrative film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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