out of Five
Running time: 90
Hugely entertaining and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, this is a riveting documentary that's both fascinating and genuinely disturbing and will make you keenly aware of the advertising that surrounds you on a daily basis.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (the lengthy title was contractual in America) is a documentary that explores the insidious nature of advertising and marketing via product placement in movies and TV shows. Intending to harness the force of product placement for good, Spurlock sets out to see if he can get his film made entirely through the willing support of a series of sponsors in return for product placement deals and a lucrative above-the-title promotion.
As well as attempting to persuade the various sponsors, Spurlock also interviews film directors (including Tim Berg, Quentin Tarantino and Brett Ratner), industry insiders, politicians (Ralph Nader), media experts (Noam Chomsky), product specialists and, in the film's scariest sequence, neuro-marketers, whose job is to determine common responses to advertising material.
Spurlock's entertaining, lighthearted approach belies his serious message and the film raises some interesting questions, such as whether agreeing to product placement and sponsorship compromises his artistic integrity and if so, how far is too far? The interviews are excellent and it's very funny trying to see Spurlock work in his contractually ordained plugs for his various items (e.g. showing off his new shoes to Ralph Nader or casually ensuring that a bottle of POM Wonderful is in shot each time).
Needless to say, there are several hilarious moments. Highlights include a series of failed commercial pitches to the POM Wonderful board and Spurlock attempting to secure the support of Mane & Tail shampoo (“A shampoo that's suitable for both you and your horse”) and pitching them the way the product would be used in the film, with the images playing out alongside as he describes them over the phone.
However, the film's best sequence occurs when Spurlock visits Sao Paolo in Brazil, a city that has outlawed all outdoor advertising and has reaped extraordinary benefits as a result; not only is the city cleaner but crime has actually gone down. The scenes where he drives through the advertising-free city are extraordinary and it makes you wonder if the same jaw-droppingly bold but wildly successful experiment could work in other cities.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a hugely entertaining documentary that's by turns thought-provoking, genuinely disturbing and laugh-out-loud funny. Highly recommended, though be warned: no matter how susceptible to advertising you think you are, you will come out of the film craving a bottle of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (PG)