The High Cost of Selling out; Spurlock's Latest, 'Greatest Movie'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 22, 2011 | Go to article overview
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The High Cost of Selling out; Spurlock's Latest, 'Greatest Movie'


Byline: Riley Waggaman, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

With POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Morgan Spurlock, the documentary filmmaker who brought us Supersize Me, serves up yet another tasty yet nutritional treat: a documentary about product placement, financed entirely with product placement. It sounds like a self-promoting gimmick - and it is, in a way - but Mr. Spurlock's execution is nearly flawless, and what begins as a benign stunt quickly deepens into a commentary of considerable consequence.

The film begins with Mr. Spurlock pitching his idea to any corporation that will listen: clothing lines, car companies - even Ban deodorant. After a lot of hilarious salesmanship, Mr. Spurlock eventually scores $1.5 million in corporate financing as well as a fleet of Mini Coopers (among other freebies) that he can only fill up at Sheetz - the documentary's official gas-station chain. Mr. Spurlock even adds POM Wonderful Presents to the movie's title after cutting a deal with the chic juice manufacturer POM Wonderful, whose pomegranate juice also becomes the movie's official beverage. (Its iconic double-bulb bottle can be spotted in almost every scene.) Every aspect of the film was for sale: Sponsors were encouraged to purchase full-length advertisements, which appear sporadically throughout the documentary.

But it's only after reviewing the terms of his multifarious sponsorships that Mr. Spurlock realizes the full price of selling out. His contractual restrictions range from a requirement to stay exclusively at Hyatt hotels to a prohibition against saying anything disparaging about Germany: Does this mean Mr. Spurlock is surrendering artistic control of his documentary?

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