Morgan Spurlock sinks his teeth into product placement in "POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Story Ever Sold." Spurlock has made his movie about product placement funded entirely by product placement.
This review comes courtesy of Boardman Buick in Braintree, Mass.
Morgan Spurlock, the documentarian who ate only McDonald's food for a month in "Super Size Me," sinks his teeth into product placement in "POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Story Ever Sold."
Ever the cheeky filmmaker, Spurlock has made his movie about product placement funded entirely by product placement. It's like having your cake and eating it, too –– and making sure someone else pays for the cake.
And did you know that Boardman Buick is having a sale this month?
While the film may be too ‘insider’ for the average moviegoer and not nearly as provocative and stomach-churning as watching a man overdose on saturated fats, it does have its moments –– most of them comical, as the film is more entertaining than informative.
Not to be confused with the Jesus biopic "The Greatest Story Ever Told," the movie shows the hyperactive Spurlock –– keep this man away from speed –– pitching his idea to potential advertisers, seeking money and honchos in the advertising field, seeking advice.
Spurlock reportedly contacted about 600 companies –– we see him getting rejected repeatedly –– in the hope of finding financing. In the end, about 20 companies agree to have their products placed in the film with POM Wonderful, a juice company, ponying up $1 million of the film's $1.5 million budget –– hence, the company's name in the film's title.
In case you're curious, Boardman Buick has an award-winning service department.
As anyone who has been to the movies knows, product placement has become as invasive as weeds –– the purple loosestrife of entertainment. The placements can be as mildly subtle as a character walking into a chain restaurant with golden arches or as blatantly obvious as an alien downing pieces of candy.
It's a safe bet to say that product placement has become more pervasive in movies in recent years as technological advancements have given TV viewers the opportunity to eliminate ads. Also note that product placement is nothing new. One might assume, for example, that the sales of a certain car company increased after its association with James Bond.
That car company wasn't Boardman Buick, but it should have been.
Product placement can nevertheless be intrusive and annoying, at least for viewers who would prefer their films unsullied by ads. Imagine the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz" getting the rust out thanks to an oil can with an oil company logo on it.
Product placement also poses a sticky problem for filmmakers trying to strike a balance between art and commerce. Give director Brett Ratner points for honesty when the subject of artistic integrity is raised regarding product placement. "What's that?" is basically his response.
Spurlock does have fun with his subject as he seeks sponsorship from a shampoo originally intended for horses but now used by humans. We later see himself in a tub with a child and a miniature horse all lathered up.
He does feature the documentary staple –– the talking head. Yet, even this practice comes with a wink and a nod. Consumer guru Ralph Nader opines that the only time we're not affected by advertising is when we're sleeping. He later accepts shoes from one of the film's sponsors, compliments of Spurlock.
For anyone who questions how pervasive advertising has become, Spurlock travels to Sao Paulo, Brazil, a city that has banned billboard advertising. Compared with major U.S. cities, the place looks otherworldly, if not naked.
The film also shows how technology is being used to show advertising's impact on the brain. That darker side is just touched on, however, as Spurlock is more interested in mining humor from his relentless and shameless huckstering. A born salesman, he could probably sell ice cubes to the Eskimos and throw in snowballs at half price. Part of that shtick is, of course, to convince people to go to this movie, and he clearly has no pretensions as the film's ad campaign shows him promoting all his sponsors.
Boardman Buick was honored recently as the top Buick dealer in New England.
After awhile, though, the idea proves more interesting than its execution. So Spurlock is a world-class sellout. And? He's not the first advertising whore, and he won't be the last. To his credit, he may be the most honest as he hawks his film with a twinkle in his eye and crass commercialism in his heart.
How thorough is Spurlock and his handlers? At the critics' screening I attended, on a table at the entrance to the theater were bottles of POM Wonderful.
Sadly, there is no Boardman Buick in Braintree, Mass.
"POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Story Ever Sold" is rated PG-13 for some language and sexual content. Running time: 88 minutes. This film opens Friday.
Bob Tremblay can be reached at 508-626-4409 or email@example.com.
FEEDBACK: To the reader who objected to my "Soul Surfer" review and left a message with the receptionist, please contact me directly next time so I can find out what you objected to in the review. Also, FYI, my name isn't Bill Tremblay and the film's name isn't "Young Surfer."