DVD Review - The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Morgan Spurlock is the documentary filmmaker behind Super Size Me. His movies and even his short-lived TV show since then have been built in similar fashions, usually centered around himself participating in some kind of stunt or manufactured challenge. This would be fine, if the stunts were in service of the movie and not the opposite, which is the problem with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Essentially, Spurlock is trying to examine the idea of advertising that's built into movies, what some refer to as product placement or "co-promotion" but he does so by doing it himself. He ceases to be an objective observer, which is his modus operandi, but here it's just pointless.

Through Spurlock's film, we basically learn what co-promotion in movies is, but that's about it. I don't feel like Spurlock going through the process himself serves or teaches us anything beyond a few insider things that aren't necessary or all that interesting. Spurlock doesn't even really get into how effective co-promotion is. We get a sense of why it's done and why it's needed, but we have no clear understanding of how well it works. The goal one would assume is to get someone who sees a product or ad in a major motion picture to then buy that particular product, but Spurlock doesn't examine sales records or financial statements of the advertisers.

If someone had to guess, one would say that whatever those statements read, they're most likely positive or else why would advertisers do it? Yet, it would have been nice to see what degree is it positive. Spurlock instead goes through the process of trying to pitch his movie to potential advertisers so they will give him money in return of product placement and various other co-promotion tactics. The only hurdle is trying to sell them on the idea that his movie is NOT going to be a blockbuster like Iron Man but instead a documentary that's barely going to be seen by anyone.

Spurlock's pitch is a movie-within-a-movie or rather a movie that's self-reflexive. The movie is about the making of itself. It's not as complicated as the recent Road to Nowhere. Spurlock makes the movie mostly about the process of pitching to advertisers, phone calls and presentations on cardboard. It would be a drag but Spurlock's personality carries us through. The back half concerns interesting places like a city in Brazil that's banned outdoor ads and a school in America considering putting ads on its buses. I wish Spurlock had spent more time exploring things like this.

The only real source of controversy is the possibility that the advertisers might try to take creative control away from the movie's director. Spurlock interviews famous film directors like JJ Abrams and Quentin Tarantino who address the concern, but it's not as if anyone has ever really complained about their movies in that way. The best thing would have been to have found a movie or TV show with blatant product placement and interviewed the director of that.

Spurlock does interview some musicians who have sold their songs for commercials, but I feel like that's rather tangential and doesn't get at the heart of what he's exploring.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual material.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.


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