Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock became a household name after he turned his month-long McDonald’s binge into the hit movie Super Size Me. Now, 13 years after that movie hit theaters, Spurlock has a new Super Size Me project, but this time, instead of eating at a fast-food restaurant, Morgan is creating one from scratch.
Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival over the weekend. Here’s what the critics are saying about the new “big chicken” documentary:
• The Guardian UK’s Charles Bramesco finds the new film only somewhat informative, and mostly just one big, dull ego trip:
Ever since he bottomed out America’s collective stomach in 2004 with the fast food exposé Super Size Me, Spurlock’s films have gradually nudged his public persona into the foreground at the expense of the trenchant reportage that originally endeared him to us. Though his vanity hit its nadir with the male-grooming documentary Mansome — a feature-length ode to Spurlock’s trademark handlebar ‘stache — that narcissism still threatens to eclipse the subject at hand. And by revisiting his breakout pet topic of cheap food’s steep costs, Spurlock’s made his own self-absorption more abundantly present than ever.
Bramesco gives the film two out of five stars.
• David Ehrlich of IndieWire likes the film considerably more than the Guardian’s critic, arguing that it offers a unique behind-the-scenes look at the fast-food industry:
It’s surprisingly grim stuff for a movie that never betrays its obvious populist streak, but its broadness only adds to its efficacy. Spurlock’s quest to put Chick-fil-A out of business is always entertaining — the filmmaker is still a charming and quick-witted man of the people, and his shtick has aged much better than Michael Moore’s — but if “Super-Size Me 2” isn’t quite as funny as the first installment, it’s considerably more horrifying.
Ehrlich gives the film a B+ rating, writing that “Spurlock refuses to ignore the gap between our principles and our actions, and his film endeavors to bridge it.”
• The Hollywood Reporter’s Leslie Felperin appreciates that Spurlock is calling out the BS of the fast-food industry in an entertaining way:
Spurlock’s smart move here is to shift the focus away from explaining just how bad high-calorie highly-processed food is because, duh, we know all that now. Instead, Holy Chicken! exposes how the agri-food business uses deceptive but legal buzz words and semiotic persiflage to create a “health halo” around certain foods and brands in order to con consumers into thinking their products are greener, more humanely produced and generally better for you (spoiler: they’re not really) than the Big Macs and Whoppers of old.
Felperin digs the film’s energy and finds the chicken restaurant stunt amusing, but notes that “it doesn’t offer any real solutions, or acknowledge that there’s a class component in the equation.”
• Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson thinks that Spurlock’s “onscreen persona has grown far more cutesy and self-regarding,” since the original film, and he finds that some of the best moments don’t involve the filmmaker at all:
The film is stronger when Spurlock takes a backseat and lets his collection of experts explain exactly how fast-food restaurants have changed their look in the years since his first film. All that emphasis on wood panelling and earth-tones is no accident, and it’s fascinating to learn just how much detail goes into restaurant layout — all in service of fooling customers into thinking they’re eating healthily.
Grierson also writes that “like a lot of fast food, Super Size Me 2 doesn’t stay with you very long, leaving the customer unsatisfied.”
Deadline reports that Spurlock is close to signing a distribution deal with YouTube Red for around $3.5 million. Stay tuned for more details on the release of Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! as they become available.