Who's In It: Morgan Spurlock
The Basics: It's not just that advertising now covers every square inch of public space--the entire sides of buildings, the interiors of school buses, stickers on apples in the grocery store, the wall space above urinals--or even that products are blatantly advertised in the movies and TV shows we watch. It's just that it's a lot sneakier than it used to be. There aren't programs called Kraft Television Theater anymore (oh, wait, yes there is, it's called Hallmark Hall of Fame) but we do have the kids on the new 90210 going on and on about how much they love Dr. Pepper while making sure the can's logo faces the camera. And documentary guy Morgan Spurlock uses his latest movie to explain how marketers are employing any means necessary to stalk you and shake you down.
What's The Deal: It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that eating McDonald's food every day for a month will make you unhealthy (Supersize Me) or that Osama bin Laden is good at hiding (Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?). And it doesn't require superhero vision to notice that we're being pitched products everywhere we go. But Morgan Spurlock's movies are still as entertaining as they are obvious. And that's because he's great at taking stuff that's right in front of you, the everyday bits and pieces of societal influence and control that affect your life and pointing it out in a way that's sort of like Schoolhouse Rock for adults. And he's a master of the intimate; his "we're tight bros" presentation is really appealing, even if you're not really learning anything you didn't already know. He'd make an awesome high school history/sociology teacher.
Guest Stars Who Should Have Gotten At Least As Much Screen Time As Ban Antiperspirant And One Whose Own Product Placement And Marketing Agenda Wasn't Even Mentioned: Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky would have been compelling argument-bolstering presences if they'd been given more than 30 seconds each to state their cases about how we've lost our ability to think critically about the corporatized world we live in. Meanwhile actor/director Peter Berg says "G.E. is my boss" but never mentions why he's got more than a few Battleship items in his shots when he is, in fact, the director of the new movie based on the vintage board game.
More Missed Opportunities: An extended clip from that infamous Dr. Pepper-sponsored 90210 would have been nice. I saw that episode and there are even scenes where a digital Dr. Pepper logo simply floats near the heads of the characters. Another blatant example not used in this doc exists in the Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt rom-com What Women Want, where the entire movie just stops for 30 seconds while a big screen Nike ad plays in its entirety. Helen Hunt's character is a high-powered ad exec so the rationalization is that you get to see how great she is at having Nike-based ideas (actual dialogue spoken by Hunt: "Nike wants to empower women."), but it's really just a commercial to sell athletic shoes to a captive female audience.
Full Disclosure: After the press screening, people were waiting outside the theater to give away free products that were used in the documentary. I happily took home one eight-ounce bottle of POM Wonderful and two sample-sized packages of Seventh Generation dish soap. I have no regrets.