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Country: United States
Featuring: Morgan Spurlock, Peter Berg, Quentin Tarantino, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, OK Go, Brett Ratner, Donald Trump
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Run time: 90 minutes
I once went to a museum – I think it was in Prescott. 2/3 of the museum was dedicated to displays that depicted…the building of that very museum. I thought that was a really bizarre sort of layered…historic anomaly? I don’t even know how one would describe that. Much as Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold defies description for me. The biggest difference between the two is that unlike the museum, Spurlock’s film really entertained me.
Now, the film is easy to describe. Spurlock is making a movie about product placement in movies, and wants to fund his product-placement movie entirely by means of selling product placements IN that movie. The movie consists almost entirely of him pitching various companies, hoping that they will be willing to cut a check and take the plunge, sponsoring the movie. Got it?
Okay. That means that everything that follows is advertising. Everyone who watches it, talks about it, tweets about it, passes a billboard for it. This is a review I am writing because I receieved a free copy of the DVD. The review in itself adds to the “impressions” the movie receives online. (Spurlock had to get 600,000,000 “impressions” to fulfill his contract with the title sponsor, Pom Wonderful, which he achieved in the first two weeks.) If I recommend the film (and I do) then it might make you, the reader, go out and purchase it.
Once you DO purchase the movie, you will be assailed by advertising beginning to end. Pom Wonderful presents…The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Brought to you by Ban deoderant, Mane & Tail shampoo, the Hyatt, Jet Blue, some American gas station chain, some shoe company, some clothing companies, and so on and so forth.
While being assailed by these commercials, the process by which they got into the film in the first place will be laid out for you. The concept here is a little mind bending, so I’m not going to try to describe it any further. I’ll just say it really is a fascinating look at the advertising industry, specifically the product-placement side of it, but also raises serious ethical questions about, among other things, advertising in schools. If a school board is so cash-strapped that they can no longer offer adequate programs for their students, is it OK for them to sell ad space in the school, and take five minutes out of every school day so the kids can be advertised AT, in order to fund a lunch program?
There are those who believe that all advertising, no matter what context, is insidious and by nature untruthful. (Ralph Nader makes an appearance in the film.) Others think that any place that can squeeze ads in, anywhere, should do so (many references are made to NASCAR, and Donald Trump makes an appearance as well).
Then there is the ethical question surrounding the movie itself. By selling out to all these companies, is Spurlock compromising his artistic vision – even IF that artistic vision IS to sell out to as many companies as possible?
Spurlock provides no answers to these questions, but then there ARE no easy answers to any of them. The only thing that he DOES provide is an entertaining movie and a few fascinating discussion topics. And it’s enough. Seeing the inner workings of the product placement industry is interesting. But seeing a movie based entirely on advertising, comprised almost entirely of advertising, and watching commercials as we’re being told that they are commercials is mind-bending. And far more honest than I could have imagined it would be.