Back in 2004, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock produced a film that forever changed the face of documentaries. He took Michael Moore’s entertaining approach and amplified it exponentially while still tackling an important topic in a very effective way.
Sure, some snobby film critics were turned off by his gimmicky approach, which basically involved him adopting an all-McDonald’s diet. But “Super Size Me” was a rousing success. Now, 15 years later, the filmmaker has returned to the subject to see if his very revealing evidence has changed the way we eat.
In “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!,” Spurlock hypothesizes that the fast-food industry has undergone a major makeover in the years since he released his first film. He notes chain restaurants’ use of terms like “healthy,” “organic” and “natural” to describe their food.
Spurlock then sets out to open his own chicken franchise, taking the viewer on every step of the journey—from raising poultry and conjuring recipes to designing the brand and scouting a location. However, as time goes on and more and more is revealed, it becomes clear that not everything is as it seems when it comes to what we are putting in our mouths.
The movie was filmed in 2016 and originally debuted on the film festival circuit in 2017. YouTube acquired the film and planned a release on its streaming platform but later dropped it (due to reasons that, completely unrelated to the movie’s quality, you can research yourself).
That said, it is about time that “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!” has seen the light of day. Lacking the “extreme” quality of the gimmick he used in his first film, Spurlock’s latest project may not be as exciting but it is certainly just as eye-opening—thanks in part to the filmmaker’s very entertaining approach.
I spoke with Spurlock back in 2011 during his brief stop in Phoenix on his press tour for his documentary “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” To this day, he remains one of my favorite interviewees due to his light-hearted sense of humor during our discussion. It is that sense of humor that is carried over into his documentaries to make them entertaining and therefore effective.
“I feel like there are people who see documentaries and want them to be medicine,” Spurlock said during my interview with him. “The minute that a documentary is entertaining or funny, a lot of people see it as a problem. The film lights a fuse. I don’t want to tell you what to think. That’s not how I make movies. I hate being told what to think. I want to present this idea and say now you go make up your own mind.”
And that is precisely what Spurlock does in “Super Size Me 2.” The final payoff is humorous and enlightening but it is the journey to get to that point that is most fun—and educational.
The best section of the movie is a montage of scenes in which Spurlock visits several fast-food restaurants to try their chicken sandwiches. I, personally, wish that the film had spent more time with those moments and downplayed the more serious aspects of the topic. But as is, Spurlock has once again presented the best of both worlds and given us some food for thought in the process.