The Greatest Movie Ever Sold Review
By Rich Cline
There's a zing of postmodern fun to be had while watching a film that documents itself being made. And while it's a clever look at the secret world of product placement, you never quite feel like the movie itself really gets up to speed.
In order to make a documentary about the shady world of brand integration in films and television, Spurlock decides to sell his new project to the highest bidders. And discovers that there's a parallel world of public relations, advertising, product specialists and neuro-marketers who make a lot of money doing this. After a slow start, sponsors climb on board, and Spurlock makes sure to keep their products on-screen as he conducts interviews with experts.
But does this compromise his journalistic or artistic integrity?
Spurlock is a likeable character, always honest with us about what he's up to, so following him through this process has a strongly personal touch. We watch as he works out his own brand personality, makes hilarious pitches to executives and then cross-markets the film. All the way through, Spurlock walks the extremely fine line between making a documentary, finding the comedy in each situation, pulling the curtain back on a clandestine industry and of course advertising his sponsors.
And his questions become increasingly relevant to his own situation as a filmmaker: when does sponsorship become selling out? Will all of this mean that he loses control of his film? Is there ever truth in advertising? He also explores the nature of product placement, asking whether audiences know they're being sold something even as he is shamelessly hawking his sponsors' wares to his hapless interviewees.
In other words, while showing us what's going on, he reveals how this insidious process is woven into every layer of production and marketing. The way he pushes the various brands becomes an amusing running joke, while he gets telling insight both through experts and with vox pops in the streets. It's a funny, lively, expertly shot and edited film. And the only complaint is that there's no sting in the tail. Although you could argue that the entire film is the punchline.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 24th August 2011
Box Office Worldwide: $622 thousand
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Fresh: 92 Rotten: 34
Cast & Crew
Producer: Keith Calder, Jeremy Chilnick, Abbie Hurewitz, Morgan Spurlock, Jessica Wu
Starring: Peter Berg as Himself, Paul Brennan as Himself, Ralph Nader as Himself, Brett Ratner as Himself, J.J. Abrams as Himself