By Erin Devenny
Morgan Spurlock’s latest documentary, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, uses a combination of wit and logic to successfully dissect the use of advertising and product placement within various forms of popular culture. Spurlock is best known for his 2004 Oscar-nominated film Super Size Me, which focused on the health-related consequences of subsisting on a fast food diet. In The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, he gives us a peek into the world of advertising and product placement in our consumer-driven world. Spurlock has a controversial reputation. He takes his audiences inside the inner workings of a sensitive issue. In this case, the issue is the influence advertising has on our society.
The film features meetings between Spurlock and the CEOs and upper management of some of America’s major corporations. With every pitch, he attempts to gain their support (and endorsement money) so their product can be advertised in the movie itself. Simply put, this is a film about product placement that uses product placement itself to prove a point. He pushes this concept in the audience’s face, forcing us to acknowledge the extent to which products are consistently laid before us every day. Spurlock raises questions about the advertising done by major corporations, and begs us to consider its influence on the way we think about those around us, as well as ourselves. We watch as he gains the sponsorship of companies such as POM Wonderful, Mini Cooper, Mane ‘n Tail and the Hyatt Hotel Corporation, and then laugh as he shamelessly promotes them throughout the film. He even goes as far as including small commercial segments. One advertisement for Mane ‘n Tail shampoo hilariously features a bath between a young boy, played by Spurlock himself, and a pony. In a blatantly ironic, yet telling, gesture, Spurlock changes the title of the film itself to POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold after he procures the financial support of the POM Wonderful fruit juice corporation.
Throughout these meetings with major corporations, we are given insight into exactly how much control these companies have over their brand and the information they intend the public to receive. In this respect, Spurlock pokes fun at blatant advertising schemes, and how well they have blended into our society’s mainstream thinking.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold examines advertising within films, the music industry, television shows, and even inside the American school system. We are provided with the opinions of celebrities such as Quentin Tarantino, Outkast’s Big Boi, and Donald Trump. The line between art and commerce is carefully examined by some of Hollywood’s writers and directors.
Although the viewer may not be shocked by the arguments presented by this documentary, Spurlock’s sense of humour keeps this movie from becoming dry and lifeless. His comedic presence is extremely entertaining, and his ability to poke fun at himself as he sells out for the “greater good” should not be overlooked.