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Thursday, July 22, 2004 05:00 pm

Movie review

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Super Size Me

McDiet proves hard to digest

Morgan Spurlock is about to embark on a most dangerous adventure. His girlfriend is frightened of the consequences; his doctors warn of the potential hazards.

Spurlock's crazy quest doesn't involve parachuting or mountain climbing, but the risks may be just as great. Like an athlete readying himself for the big game, Spurlock first undergoes physical training and submits to a battery of medical tests. For the next 30 days, Spurlock will eat nothing but food from McDonald's and try everything on the menu at least once.

The experiment begins on a happy note as Spurlock revels in the choices offered on the menu board. By the end, there are no more happy meals: He's gained 25 pounds, and his health has deteriorated significantly.

At its heart, Super Size Me is an educational film that links America's love of fast food to the national obesity epidemic and other health problems. But Spurlock manages to transcend the stilted documentary form by putting a face -- his face -- on the problem. We worry that his next Big Mac fix will be the one that sends him to the hospital. A graduate of the Michael Moore school of filmmaking, Spurlock places himself front and center. He is as much the story as is the actual subject, and his irreverent wit makes the stream of facts and figures easier to swallow. At one point, in a scene reminiscent of Moore's Roger & Me, Spurlock attempts to reach a McDonald's spokesperson by phone to set up an interview. Moore would have marched into the lobby of the corporate office, but Spurlock never takes it that far.

Despite its bright tone, Super Size Me carries a dire warning about a problem that reaches all of us. Drag your families to see it, because this is a film that could alter your lives for the better.

What other critics are saying. . .

Anchorman [PG-13] Will Ferrell is a pompous newscaster in the '70s who is matched with an ambitious and talented female colleague. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

The Bourne Supremacy [PG-13]The second of the planned trilogy based on Robert Ludlum's novels about a CIA agent (Matt Damon) with a secret identity. The Chinese vice premier is assassinated by someone using the agent's cover name, Jason Bourne, and the agent must find the real killer to prevent a war between the U.S. and China. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Catwoman [PG-13] Halle Berry stars as Patience Philips, a graphic artist who is murdered when she discovers secrets about the cosmetics company she works for, which is a front for a criminal organization. Brought back to life, she seeks revenge. This is essentially a different character from the one played by Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

A Cinderella Story [PG] Routinely mistreated by her stepmother, Sam Martin (Hilary Duff) looks forward to meeting her Internet beau at a Halloween dance. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

The Clearing [R] Wayne (Robert Redford) and Eileen (Helen Mirren) Hayes live the American Dream - until Wayne's kidnapped and held for ransom by an ordinary man (Willem Dafoe). "The Clearing is just an OK thriller, full of standard scenarios and cookie-cutter characters." (Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune) Parkway Pointe

The Day After Tomorrow [PG-13] Global warming throws the world into chaos. ShowPlace East

De-Lovely [PG-13] Kevin Kline plays celebrated songwriter Cole Porter, whose turbulent career is anchored by his wife and muse, Linda (Ashley Judd). Film features original performances of Porter's songs by Alanis Morissette, Robbie Williams, Sheryl Crow, and Elvis Costello. ShowPlace West

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story [PG-13] Vince Vaughn leads a group of friends to a dodgeball competition in Las Vegas to save their favorite gym. Ben Stiller leads the corporate team. White Oaks

Fahrenheit 9/11 [R] Michael Moore (director of Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine) looks at the Bush Administration's response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Parkway Pointe

Garfield [PG] The famous cartoon cat finally comes to the big screen in a mix of live action and CGI animation. Bill Murray seems the ideal choice to voice the cat with an attitude. White Oaks

I, Robot [PG-13] Set in the year 2035, Chicago police detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) investigates a murder that may have been committed by a robot. "A high-tech thriller that really works -- both because of its eye-popping visual feats and the ideas and humanity behind them." (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

King Arthur [PG-13] A less mystical, more historical account of King Arthur, who reigned in Britain as the Roman Empire was collapsing. Parkway Pointe

The Notebook [PG-13]Two young lovers from different backgrounds are separated when the U.S. enters World War II. Seven years later, she is engaged to a soldier when she discovers the whereabouts of her first true love."Mercilessly plodding pacing, problematic character motivations and a fundamental lack of chemistry between the two star-crossed lovers." (Michael Rechtshaffen, Hollywood Reporter) Parkway Pointe

Shrek 2 [PG] Princess Fiona's parents invite her and Shrek to dinner to celebrate her marriage, not realizing that the newlyweds are green ogres. ShowPlace West

Spider-Man 2 [PG-13] Peter Parker still has personal problems, while Spider-Man is forced to confront Doctor Octopus. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

The Terminal [PG-13] Tom Hanks stars in this Steven Spielberg romantic comedy as an Eastern European immigrant who is confined to an American airport after his country is ravaged by war. Catherine Zeta-Jones co-stars. ShowPlace West

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