6 · Super Size Me

It’s been a year for movies with a message. The biggest in every sense was enviro-disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, which tried with special effects to do what scores of scientists couldn’t: convince the doubters that pumping the remains of the Carboniferous Period into the atmosphere might make our climate behave a tad erratically.

Unfortunately, by compressing 50-to-100-year worst-case scenarios into 50 to 100 hours, Tomorrow overplayed its hand. Once the doubters saw that two days had passed since the film was released and the Gulf Stream still hadn’t shut down, they would have figured it was safe to take the SUV for a spin. The only people spooked by Tomorrow were chumps like me, torn between (a) their pessimistic but cautious assessment of what could actually happen and (b) the big scary scenes of global snap-freezing up there on the screen, complete with (c) wolves. Fortunately, The Day After Tomorrow reminded us that it was pure fantasy in its closing scenes, which showed Mexico welcoming the entire population of the United States as refugees with open arms.

More pure fantasy infected Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11: the idea that an entirely average and uninspiring man could actually win the highest office in the land and take his country to war was, frankly, about as convincing as those wolves. Moore’s polemic was grimly amusing in some respects, overblown and scattershot in others, but 9/11 did contain some effective scenes: the falling leaves of paper in New York; the first attacks on Baghdad to the strains of “The Roof is on Fire”.

As far as polemical documentaries went, though, Moore was outshone by newcomer Morgan Spurlock, who focussed in Super Size Me on a single issue: what would happen if you took your temple of a body and worshipped the Golden Arches for a month? Spurlock reduced his enviously healthy frame to a groaning sack of flab by doing just that. The accompanying narrative about the fast food industry was already familiar to any reader of Eric Schlosser, but was well-translated to the screen, and the movie’s simple premise brought moments of genuine suspense and horror. Would its writer-director really risk turning his liver to paté in the name of movie-making? It’s worth heading to the drive-thru to find out.