The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011) is the latest documentary from Morgan Spurlock, whose previous films include the light-hearted Super Size Me (2004) and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? (2008). Spurlock now focuses on the world of advertising, accepting sponsorship financing in exchange for satisfying a wealth of conditions which range from only drinking one brand of juice to inserting entire advertisements into the film.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold looks at the power which sponsorship has in the film industry and which advertising holds over society in general. The film was funded solely by enlisting sponsors such as Hyatt Hotels, Sheetz convenience stores and POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. In exchange for this funding, Spurlock agreed to stay in Hyatt Hotels, buy petrol from Sheetz and drink only POM Wonderful pomegranate juice for the duration of the shoot.
The majority of the film follows Spurlock as he seeks sponsorship, negotiates with sponsors and eventually fulfils his contractual obligations; some of which involve devoting screen time to advertisements. Spurlock spend a lot of time discussing and later fulfilling these requirements rather than focusing on the much more interesting points which the film raises, but does not devote sufficient time to.
At one point, Spurlock discusses the restrictions which sponsorship can have on a film with directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Brett Ratner and J.J. Abrams. These directors are responsible for such popular fare as Reservoir Dogs, Rush Hour and Star Trek respectively, and have extremely interesting and valuable points to make. Unfortunately, these interviews are practically reduced to sound bites, as Spurlock devotes little time to each person.
These examples illustrate the main weakness of the film. By offering screen time to sponsorship companies, Spurlock allows the audience a rare glimpse into the legalities and practicalities of such arrangements. However, in doing so the film must sacrifice its most interesting points in favour of advertisements and light-hearted banter with sponsors, which will frustrate viewers. It is entirely possible that Spurlock deliberately based these decisions on a desire to covertly express what his sponsors could never have allowed him to; that art and commerce are rarely compatible. Unfortunately, this point is demonstrated at the expense of the films success as a documentary, as it fails to explore key points of interest.
One sequence in particular hints at the probing documentary that might have been, as Spurlock travels to Sao Paolo, where all outside advertising has been banned. This fascinating segment feels more fully explored, but also highlights how underdeveloped many other key sections are. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a fun way to learn a little more about the worlds of sponsorship and advertising, but its lack of depth will ultimately leave audiences dissatisfied.