I would like to consider myself a knowledgeable movie-goer when it comes to product placement. Whenever I see a character drink a Dr. Pepper or type up a report on their sweet iMac, I not only notice it but understand its implications. Morgan Spurlock’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold may be for those that have yet to realize the power product placement has on the artistic process, but I learned a little something, too.
Much like Spurlock’s Super-Size Me, the engaging filmmaker takes an interesting high-concept challenge and tries to make a 90-minute film out of it. In this case, substitute an all-McDonalds diet with the process of making a film about the evils of product placement completely funded by the products themselves. As Spurlock begins his endeavor, he starts to realize that this might be a more difficult task than he thought. But once he finds the right products with the right frame of mind, the film-maker and the companies realize they can use each other for their own interests. The majority of the film follows Spurlock’s journey in making the film that we are seeing documented, Short vignettes are included about the history, effect and other real-world examples of product placement.
The presentation of the film isn’t the only similarity to Super-Size Me, though, as many of his previous film’s problems are held over. The problems of product placement are introduced but never fully explored. Spurlock talks to a lot of consumer rights and media experts, and many talking heads talk about the issues and evils of product placement, but there is no depth to their arguments. Spurlock asks questions about his role in the matter — such as whether through the film he has “sold-out” or “bought-in” — but they are left unsatisfyingly unanswered.
Instead, Spurlock chooses to exchange most of the exposé with pure entertainment, which he does successfully with little effort. Spurlock is a dynamic character, and he surrounds himself with musicians, quirky academics (such as Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader) and the strangely interesting product CEOs — most of whom are very open about being unsure if they are inevitably going to be perceived as complete idiots. The board-room scenes between Spurlock and the representatives of POM Wonderful and Sheetz are like strange sociological experiments played out as inside jokes. What could have been completely stuffy and boring turns into very winky-eyed, tongue-in-cheek banter that is endlessly watchable.
Although not a challenging subject or incredibly insightful, the film allows its viewer to understand the process with complete transparency and think about their own viewer habits. Whether its your favorite character drinking a coke or driving a Kia, or a band you’ve never heard of promoting themselves through the soundtrack of a cell phone commercial, the film establishes that product placement isn’t always easy to discern or as simple and harmless as one might imagine. The Greatest Film Ever Sold has to make some difficult concessions by substituting hard information for entertainment, and ultimately, I feel Spurlock presents a good balance.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more