Sometimes we line up to see documentaries at the local independent theater because it offers a look at a world we weren’t aware of or explains larger problems we can’t quite grasp on our own. Other times – and it’s okay be honest – we go to see them because they give further detail about ideas we’re aware of and they bolster the opinions we already hold pretty strongly. And if it’s a Morgan Spurlock film we’re going to the theater to laugh a bit too. Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold falls into the category of films that reinforce our ideas but to be fair that’s kind of Spurlock’s schtick. He tends to dissect the issues we already know are plaguing us but the great thing about his approach is that he never takes the expected route and always manages to produce something entertaining.
With his latest film we see Spurlock’s most creative almost stupidly ambitious project to date: a documentary about the war between art and advertising in modern cinema shown through the lens of a man who’s financing said documentary completely through advertising. He literally breaks down the world he attempts to expose by breaking into it. Like I said this is incredibly ambitious. Luckily for Spurlock it works.
The film takes us through the process of getting sponsors for The Greatest Movie Ever Sold – we’re a fly on the wall in many a marketing meeting – and often getting turned down by big name companies (some of whom endure some mild vilification). Once he gets his list of sponsors together he begins to explore more deeply the effect of marketing on consumers and on film itself sitting down with many well-known Hollywood directors in order to sort out how much product placement is too much. This addition is short but one of the most intriguing bits; it’s interesting to see where some of Hollywood’s biggest names actually stand when it comes to shameless whoring –err product placement. A few of these guys are a little more candid than you might expect.
Throughout Spurlock’s research we also see the actual genesis of The Greatest Movie Ever Sold as we watch The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. So meta right? We see marketing campaigns poster designs late night talk show interviews really everything that leads up to releasing any major film but we see it alongside constant blatant references to the reality of the marketing game. The film actually brings the audience into the film in a way they’d probably never imagine by delivering an incredibly circular experience. Viewers become part of Spurlock’s great experiment by supporting it and devoting their time and money to sit in the theater and watch the film itself; that accomplishment is the element that really makes it enjoyable. That’s right it’s a documentary that’s actually fun. That being said he overextends his reach for a two hour film here and there dabbling in the music industry’s similar battle with cross-promotion and advertising and public schools' issues as well but it’s not terribly distracting and adds context so we can forgive him there.
Of course the fun element of Greatest Movie is largely attributed to the typical Spurlockian brand of goofball humor and his particular brand of self-deprecation laced with an underlying smugness. It’s kind of like that idea of a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. The prospect of marketing dominating art is a disconcerting one but instead of ringing the death knell of “real art” or using ominous music to scare the hell out of us Spurlock takes us on a hilarious journey through the weird and murky waters of advertising in film and for the most part gives us room to form expand or keep completely intact our own staunch opinions.