TIFF 2017 Review: Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken is an Unnecessary Gimmicky Sequel.
I have a real love/hate relationship with Morgan Spurlock as a documentary filmmaker. On one hand, his documentaries tend to be entertaining and humorous but on the other hand, they are incredibly manipulative and aren’t nearly as informative as Spurlock believes his films are. Super Size Me 2 is a documentary that is completely unnecessary and feels almost like a cash grab hoping that people will gravitate towards the sequel because they remember the original. I feel like Spurlock had no original concepts left so he simply combined Super Size Me with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold and made this film.
In Super Size Me 2, instead of just attacking Fast Food companies for rebranding their menu items and image, Spurlock decides to play their game. He sets out to create his own fast food restaurant in Columbus, Ohio where the rest of the Fast Food power players such as McDonald’s, Wendys, and the rest of the chains, test out their latest and greatest menu items. Spurlock decides that his fast food restaurant is going to be focused on selling chicken products and calls his restaurant Holy Chicken.
Spurlock spends 90 minutes attacking what he calls “big chicken” which are five companies who pretty much control the chicken industry in America. These companies are Tyson, Perdue, Pilgrims, Koch Foods, and Sanderson Farms. He also wants to make the audience aware that the fast food companies have not actually made their meals healthier but instead just found a way to change their public image by using buzz words such as “all-natural.”
I honestly don’t know how anyone could watch this film and be surprised by any of it. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 10-20 years, all the information that Spurlock presents in this film is pretty much common knowledge at this point. Spurlock keeps looking into the camera like he has discovered the cure for cancer but instead is just beating the audience over the head repeatedly by telling them these big companies are lying to us. I couldn’t help but scoff throughout the film because he kept presenting the information like it was something “new” or “shocking” when it was nothing of the sort.
Do we really need a 90-minute film to tell us that big companies such as McDonald’s are greedy? Does anyone actually believe that fast food is healthy for you? Is society really that naive that we don’t know that we are constantly being lied to and manipulated on a regular basis? These are the questions that Spurlock answers and none of it should be shocking. What makes all of this worse is that Spurlock comes across so smug and arrogant when he presents his findings to the audience. It sometimes feels like he is talking down to the audience and calling them stupid.
As a fan of documentaries, I know that most of them are biased and Super Size Me 2 is no different. It sets out to attack fast food companies and the chicken industry but nowhere in the film does Spurlock offer any sort of solution to the problem. He just shows us things for shock value but never provides any sort of answer to the bigger problem. In one scene, Spurlock talks to someone about the food industry and they respond with something along the lines of “well if the general public knew what was going on with their food than things would change overnight.” I beg to differ. There are millions of people who are aware of the food industry and what they are doing. It isn’t that cut and dry.
What I find to be the most amusing thing about Spurlock is that the people who watch his films are the ones who for the most part don’t eat the types of food he refers to in the first place. I’m not talking about us critics but rather the mature and well-educated audiences that tend to see a film like this one. Let’s be honest, the common person doesn’t go out of their way to watch a documentary. In a lot of ways, Spurlock is pretty much preaching to his own choir, the same way that Michael Moore documentaries are speaking to the liberal voter.
I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t make mention of how much of a gimmicky filmmaker I think Morgan Spurlock is. As I pointed out above, I feel like Spurlock didn’t have any other ideas so he decided to combine his two highest grossing films into one. I had big problems with the original Super Size Me because I felt like Spurlock just went on the attack. There is another albeit less popular documentary called Fat Head, which I commonly refer to as Super Size Me with a brain. Spurlock spends most of his sequel talking learning about and building his own Fast Food restaurant but as it turns out that was all just for show and not an actual reality.
Near the end of the film, Spurlock opens Holy Chicken and the place is packed with crowds of people. The line is out the door and around the building. Spurlock is shown serving food and taking orders while informing every customer that the meals aren’t healthy, the menu wording is all a lie, and the calorie count is way too high. He comments, however, that even with this transparency on display that people keep coming back for more. However, Spurlock didn’t open a fast food restaurant but rather a pop-up that was only used for a few days to shoot this film.
How are we as audience members suppose to feel about Spurlock misleading and lying to us? He leads the audience to believe that he created a real and successful Fast Food restaurant but it seems like it was all just a marketing ploy. Don’t believe me? Google it. After researching this, how does anyone know that people shown in the film weren’t extras or paid to be there? Hell, maybe the people who took part in the scene just wanted a free food. I mean, there is a lot of speculation around Spurlock actions, not only in this film and his previous outings as well.
While I can’t deny that I was somewhat entertained by Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken, I would be lying if I admitted that I learned more than one or two minor things while watching it. I feel like this entire film is setup as a hoax. It never feels like Spurlock is ever trying to change things in the world but rather just trying to cash in on being a whistleblower. I still don’t know how I feel about Spurlock as a documentary filmmaker but one thing is for sure, I don’t trust him. He knows how to entertain and put on a show but other than that he just spews common knowledge while coming up with a unique gimmick to sell his film to an audience.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken is a 5 out of 10.