Genre: Documentary Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Release Date: April 22nd, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Morgan Spurlock Actors: Morgan Spurlock
organ Spurlock’s advantage with his documentaries is his insistence on comedic elements at every turn. Rather than dryly presenting facts, or even skewing bits of information to aid his slant, his statistics and figures are shown with witty ideas, obvious mockery, and sharp sarcasm. The ever-present humor allows for a wider reach with his audiences, even if the messages of his films are commonly less important than the heavy-hitting topics of competitors.
While Michael Moore targets the formidable opponents of government and politics, Spurlock fights his battles with lesser-known enemies – in the case of “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” he sheds some light on the advertising industry and how it affects movies. Delving further into this problem, a predicament many would find completely inconsequential compared to the tougher world crises continually plaguing the news, he also examines the difficulties in making a movie without advertising. Along the way, he includes bits about city ads, musicians working with movies and commercials, schools, and the millions of impressions he needs to get to sell his film.
It’s certainly not the most controversial subject, but it’s definitely not the least interesting; brand integration, or product placement, is one of the largest controlling factors in the movie industry. $412 billion was spent on advertising in 2009. Most moviegoers can’t help but notice the Pepsi cans, Subway wrappers, sports cars, and electronics that keep popping up in films, each receiving a nice close-up or clear shot of a logo, for no other reason than advertising. Spurlock balances opinions by interviewing people on the streets who aren’t all that aware of the promotions, famous directors who shave thousands from their budgets by showcasing various items, and even healthcare professionals who disapprove of the overabundance of product placement. J.J. Abrams, Brett Ratner, and Quentin Tarantino, among others, voice their opinions on the subject. Filmmaker hopefuls could actually pick up a few tips on how to acquire funding for their own movies.
The plot of “The Greatest Film Ever Sold” is actually quite satirical – it’s a documentary about branding, advertising, and product placement that is financed through brands, advertising and product placement. As Spurlock meets with various companies and potential sponsors, he explains that his wishes are to make a movie about how people make movies through the use of brand inclusion (or “selling out” as many artists tend to describe an act of trading creative incorruptibility for easy money). At first, no one seems interested in investing. His “brand collateral,” or the elements that make him appealing to advertisers, is practically nonexistent. Through the help of analysts, he’s given a “brand personality” and lands POM Wonderful, the shapely-bottled pomegranate juice company as a lead advertiser. From here, he’s able to flesh out the process of gaining further sponsors, expose the deceptive nature of advertising, flip interviewers on their ears, and scrutinize the process of designing poster art and theatrical trailers.
The documentary starts strong, loses a little steam when it explores the necessary steps for Spurlock to advertise his movie to the world, and finally ends strong with egregious product placement and hilarious spoof commercials. The major concern of his advertisers is how their product will be perceived by viewers – needless to say, no one is free from mockery. Even when items are not badmouthed openly, the irony behind his every move is evident. “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” is intelligent, humorous, and entertaining, even if it’s only marginally eye-opening.
– Mike Massie