Directed By Morgan Spurlock
Starring – Morgan Spurlock
The Plot – Morgan Spurlock reignites his battle with the food industry, this time from behind the register, as he opens his own fast food restaurant.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong adult language
– Informatively provocative. In the fashion of the original film, this one as well has no shortage of scandalous facts and revelations to open eyes on everyone from Tyson Chicken to the advertising market for its unabashed manipulation of the consumer. In the first film, Spurlock taught us how our lifestyles had a negative effect on us, but in “Holy Chicken”, it’s really how that lifestyle has an effect on the animals who were sacrificed for the finished product, outlining a level of selfishness weighed heavily by the irony of a culture supposedly seeking change in the choices they’re given. There were times during this picture when I was angry, sad, and even grateful for the way Morgan turns the joke on those responsible, and through an expansive experimentation throughout the many fast food chains that make up the landscape, he proves that so very little outside of restaurant appearance has changed in fifteen years.
– Our leading man. While I definitely appreciate Spurlock more as a leader behind the camera rather than the one in front of it, I can’t dispel what his level of journalism brings to the uncovering of the information presented before us. As a detective, Spurlock’s blunt sarcasm is easily his greatest strength, narrating and navigating us through no shortage of on-screen guests and factual evidence at his disposal made even more appalling by the emphasis he gives in summarizing it all. He’s certainly a man not afraid of getting his hands dirty with the subject matter, putting himself front-and-center in the shoes of the many who experience these scandals. It establishes a bond between director and audience rarely ever seen on film, and allows him to come down to our level of reality when documenting it for the cameras.
– Riveting second act. This was easily the highlight of the film for me, as a conspiracy scandal against Big Chicken was brought to light through a series of farmer interviews that really struck a chord with the dreamer inside of me. What’s so endearing about this subplot is the way it really halts the humor of the film dead in its tracks, giving us a hard to swallow reality for many American workers forced to give up the family business because of the humbling circumstance brought forth by 21st century capitalism. Spurlock keeps the camera on them and allows the tears to flow, embracing the hurt ensued like a warm blanket of conscience that resonates soundly with anyone who watches it. With so much money flowing everywhere in the fast food industry, but especially the chicken wars, why are the people who make the biggest sacrifices the ones who are left with such very little proof of positives for their contributions?
– Effective animation. The most important continuity between films definitely comes in the form of these hilariously grim animated sequences that give visuals to what Spurlock is narrating through. These scenes prove fruitfully that the film has a strong sense of humor, and it’s one that uses animal torture to convey the message of what we otherwise can’t show in a PG-13 documentary. What I love about this besides the fact that the animation is so extreme in its rendering, is the way these visuals never allow the audience the same freedoms that they have been living through their whole life with when enjoying this product. They have to endure what it takes to feed their gluttony, and it’s nothing short of astonishing when you consider that actual animals go through this consumerism machine every single minute of every day. The coloring and fluidity of the sequences are gorgeous from an artistic level, and fill in the gaps of curiosity brilliantly during these sporadic moments throughout the picture.
– Razor sharp editing. This is especially important during a documentary because the words of the narrator and imagery that is transpiring have to move soundly throughout the many conversations and factual inserts, and in that regard, this was one of the best storytelling methods that I have seen in quite a long time. My favorite comes in the form of Morgan at the scene talking to someone, and the subject matter in question peeks into frame at just the exact moment to make the mention more effective dramatically. For instance, there’s a scene when the inevitable day comes for the chickens that Spurlock is raising, and the pacing of the editing reveals the big bombshell from the facial resonations of the feathered flock called into question. Besides this, we get a few exceptionally inserted newsreel clips of everything from the original “Super Size Me” and the effect that it had on the fast food nation, to shameful advertising that are heavy in manipulation. It’s great to have these examples present when they are brought up, and if nothing else Spurlock is exceptional as a director for always meeting his audience at eye level when stirring the proof into the pudding.
– As a sequel. There’s many decisions creatively that allows “Holy Chicken” to stand out on its own, all the while preserving the integrity and consistency of the original picture, which stands as a cultural landmark for many. In the initial first few scenes, we are taken through the events of fast food nation since the documentary aired, displaying the impact and awareness that Spurlock prescribed on many who were living with their eyes wide open for the first time. Where this film differs creatively from its predecessor, aside from focusing almost entirely on chicken, is the film’s on-the-ground approach that sees things through many different sets of eyes, instead of just Morgan’s. We are told the effects of the mass public in the original, but here we are shown it, and it’s an evolved and matured growth for a filmmaker who sticks so close to the subject matter between films.
– Genius ending. What better scene to be my favorite than the one that allows this film to end on a high note while maintaining almost all of the momentum that it attains on this steadfast journey of saturation? To say that the payoff is big for this film is an understatement, so instead I will indulge in the fact that it’s a cynically educated prescription for many who take truth in advertising. The saddest disappointment of this ending is that what is created physically doesn’t actually exist, because if it did it would be the tastefully devious approach at firing back against cryptic restaurants who shelter us from so much that is reality. The way this scene is edited in general realization is only surpassed by the mentally vapid’s inability to catch on, and the final threat that Spurlock makes towards the camera is one that challenges those businesses to do better.
– Phony interviews. Having sat through literally thousands of documentaries in my life, I would be foolish to think that the interactions between Spurlock and his guests were a hundred percent truthful, but with that said, the meeting up of each guest feels as artificial as a scripted film could manufacture. Call it terrible acting on the part of his guests, or logic suggesting that Morgan couldn’t just walk into an office with a film crew and start filming without permission, but these scenes during the first few moments of the film feel overly constructed to the point that the dialogue itself is lost in this cloud of desired reactions and perfect framing placements that chew away at the concepts of spontaneity. The film should’ve definitely just stuck with a dual camera interview sequence, which was primarily prominent during the first film. This cuts out the introductory period of Morgan meeting with them, that is every bit unnecessary as it is obvious for lacking the element of surprise.
– Pacing issues. Most of the movie is sound in its transitions and keeping the beat of the story pumping throughout the many angles it attacks its subject matter at, but the strings of conceit sneak into this film, outlining the fame of the same man who has been in tabloids for reasons not of the flattering kind. Occasionally, the storytelling will halt progress to squeeze in Morgan’s blossoming fame with how it complicates and challenges the idea behind this film. If you did this once or twice, fine, but there are four different times when this reality is brought into light, and after a while you just have to write it off as reflecting of the pretentious kind, which often comes in the form of a filmmaker receiving his first taste of global attention. It stands as the only thing that I would cut from the film entirely, and presents the lone speed bump on an otherwise perfect run time and storytelling progression for the film.
– Undecided. If you are going to make a film as judgmental and condemning as the material conveys, then you should have the guts to point blame at someone more substantial than the shadow figure associated with Big Chicken. It feels like a bit of a cop-out for this film to not have any political or social conscience to align itself with, especially considering that it has the uncanny ability to point at the problem, yet offers no solutions to deviate from reality. One could justify that the solution in itself is to quit feeding into the slaughter of animals all together, but that would then open up a bunch of other problems and freedom fights that I would rather not get into. Apparently, neither would Spurlock. Overall, it feels like too safe of a stance to truly appreciate the focus of the mission at hand, and leaves “Holy Chicken” with all cluck and no bite when it comes to feeling like a fearless documentary.
My Grade: 7/10 or C