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Movie Review

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

By Philip Martin

This article was published May 27, 2011 at 3:21 a.m.

— POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold 85 Cast: documentary with Morgan Spurlock, Ralph Nader, Peter Berg, Brett Ratner, J.J. Abrams, Noam Chomsky, Quentin Tarantino, Donald Trump Director: Morgan Spurlock Rating: PG-13, for some language and sexual material Running time: 90 minutes

Morgan Spurlock is well-positioned as a kind of Michael Moore Lite, a playfully cheeky documentarian who chooses easy targets and entertains more than he informs. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

His latest stunt/art project is the summer-weight POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, an amusing little crosspromotional swindle in which Spurlock examines the insidious practice of product placement in film by diving right in and wallowing in the process of securing corporate sponsors for his nonfiction film about the insidiouspractice of product placement in film. That’s the joke, but it’s also the world we live in - we’re all selling, and we’re all being sold to,so we might as well get over it.

Most of us realize the ubiquity of advertising, and most of us understand that whenever a brand name gets mentioned it’s mentioned for a reason. That Spurlock seemed to have little trouble securing corporate partners to finance his film suggests a couple of things: First of all, some corporate executives have a sense of humor. But more importantly, they recognize the value of the additional impressions that being in Spurlock’s movie might bring them. In other words, they understand that advertising works - even with an audience that knows it’s beingpitched.

Few of the interviewees really have anything novel to say - although Spurlock generally manages to entertain, especially when he starts pitching the merits of Merrell’s casual shoes to a suddenly interested Ralph Nader. But he misses a golden opportunity in his brief interview with Quentin Tarantino, with whom he discusses the practice of product placement in movies generically, without even alluding to the specific, fictive “Tarantino brands” - Red Apple cigarettes, Tenku beer, the Jack Rabbit Slim’s theme restaurant - the director uses in his films in place of actual brand names.

And a trip to Sao Paulo, where all forms of outdoor advertising have been banned, doesn’t quite give the film the poignancy one might expect. Stripped of the clutter of corporate branding and billboards, the city feels weirdly inert and sterile - with inexpertly sprayed graffiti replacing the slicker corporate stuff.

In short, POM WonderfulPresents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is almost precisely what we’ve come to expect from Spurlock - a diverting hour and a half riff on that which we already know: We’re all suckers, material goods don’t really make us happy and everybody is trying to sell us something all the time.

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 05/27/2011

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