Sundance Review: “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”

 

Following the world premiere of Morgan Spurlock’s sly documentary at Sundance, he announced a title change. It’s now POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

This is, of course, part of a deal he made with POM to become his title sponsor in exchange for helping to finance his film and its sneaky investigation into the nefarious world of sponsorship, product placement, marketing and advertising in movies and TV.

Spurlock plays the fatally afflicted addict from Super Size Me, though this time instead of scarfing Big Macs, he’s so desperate to make another “doc-buster” movie, he’ll pursue financing from any brand willing to give him a buck. His cameras follow him into pitch meetings, brainstorming sessions and confabs with attorneys and fellow filmmakers. He thereby ushers the viewer into a movie world where, if Casablanca were made today, the plane behind Ingrid Bergman would be JetBlue’s (one of his sponsors), Bogie would be outfitted with Carrera sunglasses (another one), and he would walk away with Claude Rains in shoes by Merrell (and another).

Spurlock raises the film’s $1.5 million budget as he makes it. First, he rounds up sponsors. When Ban deodorant comes aboard for $50,000, you can feel Spurlock’s excitement after all the rejections. He gets a lengthy hearing from POM co-owner Lynda Resnick and her executive team and even discusses commercials he might make for the company. He eventually makes one, as well as others, while learning how to develop his own “brand personality,” and he garners tips from Hollywood types including Brett Ratner and John Wells.

The executives, PR consultants, lawyers and media experts seem to be in on the movie’s joke, but they spill the beans anyway. And even as Ralph Nader suggests the only way to avoid advertising is to go to sleep, he gets enticed into an involved discussion about Merrell shoes.  Spurlock certainly grabs all the laughs in this gold mine of comedy, even as he conducts interviews at Sheetz convenience stores.He wants to show you how wrong this all is. But the sponsors dig it, too: They’re getting exactly what they want.

Interestingly, after the film was shot, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against POM Wonderful for making false and unsubstantiated claims about its product in advertising. Irony Spurlock must appreciate.

Documentary Premieres
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Screenwriters: Jeremy Chilnick, Morgan Spurlock
Producers: Jeremy Chilnick, Abbie Hurewitz, Morgan Spurlock, Keith Calder, Jessica Wu
No rating, 88 minutes

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