Monday, May 9, 2011

Film review: POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Writer: Jeremy Chilnick, Morgan Spurlock
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Producer: Jeremy Chilnick, Abbie Hurewitz, Morgan Spurlock, Keith Calder, Jessica Wu
First-person business/media criticism documentary
1 hour, 30 minutes

Ever since Morgan Spurlock burst onto the documentary scene with his Oscar-nominated hit Super Size Me, he has continued to make his uniquely goofy-yet-serious personal examinations of modern culture. His latest takes a look at the practice known as product placement, where advertising for products is integrated directly into the story of a film or television show. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold was a hit at Sundance and has since been re-branded appropriately enough to POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

He accomplishes a remarkable juggling act in the film and is able to have his cake and eat it too. He both criticizes and raises awareness of product placement while completely funding the film using that technique as his revenue source. The film shows him trying to persuade enough businesses to pay to be featured this film in exchange for prominence within the film itself.

It's very impressive how he is able to juggle everything. The film has a good story arc, he satisfies the needs of the companies that come on board, he makes it funny and entertaining and he makes his serious points about the problems and issues with product placement. He effortlessly weaves actual commercials into to film, all the while making his critical points and getting some good laughs.

He is a without a doubt a smart filmmaker. Even something as minor as the score's use of existing classical music is handled intelligently. Although The Social Network won an Academy Award for its score, the only music-only scene within the movie was the boat race; but that scene was scored with Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt and its inclusion didn't say much if anything. Spurlock also uses that piece but much more wittily as it shows him going up against the corporate giants that he wants to fund the movie. Similarly, he uses the love-themed Habanera "L'amour est un oiseaux rebelle" from Carmen and "Montagues and Capulets" from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet when he examines sexual matters. And a scene that evokes A Clockwork Orange discreetly uses the 2nd Movement Scherzo from Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 rather than the obvious choral finale.

This isn't a deeply philosophical and heavy film. Nonetheless it is an accomplished work and a clever, thought-provoking addition to Spurlock's filmography.

This film opened the recent Hot Docs film festival and is now in theatres.

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