The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a movie about making a movie that parodies how movies are made. Got that? The newest doc-buster from Super Size Me's Morgan Spurlock takes on product placement and corporate sponsorship in Hollywood.
The film's full name, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, is a testament to the extent of the film's corporate sponsorship. Spurlock visits boardroom after boardroom pitching his idea to brand managers and marketing teams: He wants to make a movie about product placement, marketing, and advertising funded entirely by product placement, marketing, and advertising.
It should come as no surprise that he doesn't get many bites from some of the big fish: Ford, Target, GUESS Jeans, Volkswagen. But brands that identify as "alternative" and "playful" are all in: POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, JetBlue Airlines, Mini Cooper, Sheetz gas stations and convenience stores, Amy's Kitchen natural and organic foods, and others.
Much of what Spurlock covers seems obvious, and the "exposé" comes too easily. The rejections he gets as he tries to secure corporate sponsorships are not as telling as Spurlock makes them out to be. Product placements and advertisements are so ubiquitous we've grown to accept them as an inevitability. But if he is able to reach one person who isn't aware of the vise grip corporations have on our lives, then the film will not be in vain.
For many viewers, the genuinely enlightening moments come when Spurlock explores the creative compromise that corporate sponsorships demand. The real story takes place in the binding contracts and threats of pulled sponsorship. Spurlock would have done well to speak to more directors, gather anecdotes of marketing moguls stepping in and exercising their sponsoring authority. It might have required more digging, but isn't that what makes a good documentary?
Although the title suggests it, Spurlock doesn't fully expose the corporate interests that stand in the way of quality filmmaking today. He takes a cursory look at marketing and advertisement, where a stronger film would be more incisive. At one point, Spurlock visits a small-town high school that is exploring advertising and corporate sponsorship as a possible source of funding. But is this film the right place for that story?
In the end, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is financed entirely by corporate sponsorships, which is certainly a feather in Spurlock's cap. And the project as a whole is well-conceived, albeit a bit gimmicky. My recommendation? More substance, more Hollywood bigwigs squirming in their cushy leather chairs, and more Ralph Nader. A lot more Nader.
Opening Friday, May 20th
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