Oscar-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) is selling out! Well – sort of. His latest documentary is entirely bankrolled by advertising and product placement. But that’s okay, because the film is all about the proliferation of branding, advertising and product placement in our society. So companies are actually paying him to expose their people and their products to potential ridicule. The movie’s tagline sums it up best: “He’s not selling out. He’s buying in.”

Spurlock is a kinder, gentler Michael Moore, which probably explains how he was able to convince companies to participate in the documentary despite its very transparent premise. Pom Wonderful (which resembles Hawaiian Punch for adults, but costs a lot more) poured out a million bucks for top billing in the title, thus the Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold and frankly, they’re probably quite happy with the return on their investment. Kudos for their inclination to get in on the joke and reap the benefits of the buzz – but that doesn’t quite excuse the absurdity of it all. A million bucks aint exactly chump change to the susceptible, cash-strapped masses that represent the bulls-eye of the target demographic.

The documentary is entertaining and thought-provoking as it simultaneously mocks and exposes some of Hollywood’s worst-kept secrets about trade-outs and sponsorships in the entertainment industry. I’ve worked on a bunch of news and reality shows over the years that have had to sacrifice content in order to fulfill contracts that were negotiated by folks in ad sales and marketing. And I gotta tell ya – it sucks when you have to leave good ‘story’ on the cutting room floor so you can squeeze in the obligatory speech from a boring insurance rep who’s handing a $10,000 check to some newlyweds, or yet another shot of Chandon champagne being poured into a glass! But I digress… (though it is an issue that’s never really addressed in the doc and should be).

Spurlock negotiated final-cut approval for himself, so he didn’t have to sacrifice as much as the average producer might. Still, he does get the point across, and that’s a good thing. Hopefully it will generate some healthy debate about where to draw the line(s). Now take a swig of Pom Wonderful… and discuss.

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