'Fed Up' doesn't ask the right questions

Matt Pais movie review: 'Fed Up'

'Fed Up'

'Fed Up' (May 5, 2014)

*1/2 (out of four)

One of the worst sins a documentary can commit is assessing a situation and saying, “If everyone could just stop caring about money, things would get so much better.”

Discussing the issue of childhood obesity in a somewhat clueless vacuum, “Fed Up” says that 80 percent of the nation’s schools have contracts with fast food companies—and just imagine how much healthier kids could be. In theory, that’s a great call. But how many schools are so overfunded that they can turn their back on a consistent influx of cash?

Some of the movie’s other problems: Claiming a worldwide spike in obesity while only examining the United States. Including obvious statements like an NYU nutrition professor noting that food companies want to sell food. Not going deeper into assertions about how sugar is more addictive than cocaine and how today’s obese children put the country’s future in jeopardy. And not addressing the programs utilizing new perspectives on food with a clearer understanding of what’s best for the body.

Much like last year’s “A Place at the Table,” “Fed Up” advocates for the defeat of conscience-free corporations, powerful lobbies and corrupt officials. It’s a completely valid point, but come on. It is unsettling to see how this doc, narrated by Katie Couric, suggests that first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign switched its focus from eating habits to exercise after the food industry muscled its way in. (Mrs. O declined to be interviewed for the movie.) In possibly the movie’s most priceless moment, a McDonald’s rep tells Congress that Ronald McDonald doesn’t market to kids—he inspires and informs through fun and magic.

“Fed Up” doesn’t ask whether an outcry from concerned citizens actually would make complicit politicians take on these massive companies. And, yes, a home-cooked meal can cost less and be healthier than a KFC family dinner. But the doc refuses to consider that not everyone has equal access to supermarkets or the time and ability to cook.

Also, it’s not as if the overweight teens interviewed in “Fed Up” have no access to information about the effects of various foods. The Internet’s filled with it. Let’s explore why they’re not learning it. If sugary foods are this generation’s cigarettes, as the doc claims, what about the people who smoke despite the warning label? Even knowing everything about food, some people still wouldn’t eat healthy. These people aren’t interviewed.

Without addressing these challenges, the important case of “Fed Up” becomes (insert easy reference to a food with holes in it).

Watch Matt review the week's big new movies Fridays at noon on NBC.

mpais@tribune.com

 

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