In an act of either willful naïveté or smothered self-awareness, middlebrow docu-jester Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) typecasts himself as an eager corporate shill in this shiny, happy investigation into onscreen product placement. The film sets out to show how and why artistic compromise happens, with Spurlock working the phones (and his Hollywood contacts) to fund the very film we’re watching, one plug at a time. But rather than an argument or exposé, the movie is a condescendingly narrated demonstration of how money makes the movie world go round. (Stop the presses.)
Unlike Michael Moore, a fellow huckster who at least has a point of view, Spurlock is an empty vessel. Fill him with Big Macs. Put him on a camel. Dig his Fu Manchu mustache. He doesn’t have ideas—he’s the idea. Salesmanship is his greatest gift, and with this film he truly comes into his own as an equal-opportunity pitchman. You’ve never seen a grown man this giddy until you’ve seen Spurlock stumping for the erectile benefits of pomegranate juice. In fact, he’s so eager to be a tout for the (admittedly hilarious) bispecies Mane ‘n Tail shampoo that he ends up doing it for free.
Witnessing the filmmaker work his charm in boardrooms across America is entertaining in spurts, but the film falls flat as a broadsheet, because Spurlock’s mirth repels all seriousness. Happiest behind a shopping cart, he only feigns ambivalence about selling out, and merely gestures toward moral or political potholes (Noam Chomsky serves as a sight gag). When, after all his shucking and jiving, Spurlock suggests he’s actually suffering for our capitalistic sins—like some bumper-sticker-branded Jesus—it’s clear that talking himself out of his perfunctory self-righteous pose might be the hardest sell of all.