A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! has less of a gross-out factor than its predecessor but still serves as an eye-opener about the food, especially chicken, that Americans consume. It's more appropriate, content-wise, for younger viewers who are interested in the topic than other industry exposés, like Food, Inc. or Fast Food Nation. Director Morgan Spurlock exposes the false advertising behind most "healthy" fast food and taste-tests a range of chicken products on the current fast-food market. He also buys and raises his own chickens, a process that involves chicks being thrown around and shot with a long vaccination needle and chickens dying from being stepped on, having heart attacks (discovered in an autopsy scene), and getting sent to slaughter. Profit-seeking corporations come off as untrustworthy. Language includes infrequent use of words including "bastards," "f--king," "bulls--t," etc. -- in this documentary, the "F" word' is "fried."
What's the story?
Best known for Super Size Me -- the 2004 documentary in which he tracked his own physical decline from eating a steady diet of fast food -- Morgan Spurlock returns in SUPER SIZE ME 2: HOLY CHICKEN! to explore Americans' unhealthy obsession with chicken. Planning to open his own fast-food chain promising healthy food and authentic advertising, Spurlock consults a series of chefs, advertising executives, storytelling experts, and brand strategists. Through them, he learns how much work and planning goes into creating the perception -- though not the reality -- of "healthy" food. Spurlock buys thousands of his own chickens to raise, an enterprise that exposes selective breeding practices of chickens that grow faster and fatter every year (and, as a result, die more regularly from heart attacks and broken hips). In the final scenes, Spurlock opens a restaurant that's entirely upfront, in an unexpected way, about the food it's serving.
Is it any good?
This film won't disappoint fans of Spurlock's first documentary, and his decade-plus of professional evolution between the two movies shows on screen. If you've been eager to see Spurlock step foot in a McDonald's again, this is your chance. Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! is both entertaining and revealing, balancing the documentarian's exposé of the food industry's dishonest practices with a storyteller's gift for making emotional connections. The film keeps a brisk pace from beginning to end, with only a slight lull as Spurlock detours into a series of interviews concerning a lawsuit against the Tyson corporation. Still, he clearly knows when to speed things up, as with lively animated sequences, or slow them down, like an extended scene of chicks hatching to music from The Nutcracker.
Some of the food chains, corporations, and organizations that Spurlock visits won't be too happy with how they're portrayed here; Spurlock borrows from Michael Moore in his occasionally confrontational style. But he does a great job of eliciting potentially shocking information from people without overreacting in the moment. Spurlock fits in as well with Alabama chicken farmers as he does with urban ad executives, and he exploits his own celebrity in publicizing his new venture. The film reveals how easily Americans have been duped by the false "healthy halo" that food companies painstakingly craft through misleading words ("natural," "artisanal"), incomplete information ("free range," "hormone free"), and engineered experiences (manipulative decor, advertising).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! will change their own attitudes toward buying and eating chicken or fast food. Who is responsible for America's health/obesity crisis? What should we do about it?
Were you left with any unanswered questions about chicken farming or the fate of Spurlock's restaurant?
Spurlock wonders whether anything has actually changed in the quality of fast food in the years since he filmed Super Size Me. Does the answer surprise you?
Have you seen other documentaries that investigate the industrial food complex? How do they compare with this one?
- In theaters: September 6, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: November 5, 2019
- Cast: Morgan Spurlock, Jonathan Buttram
- Director: Morgan Spurlock
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, Cooking and Baking, Horses and Farm Animals
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language
- Last updated: November 4, 2019
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