“That Sugar Film” is Aussie director/essayist Damon Gameau’s attempt to do to Big Sugar what “Supersize Me” did to McDonalds.
It’s a glib yet informative and sometimes entertaining re-hashing of everything we know about how bad sugar is for us and how The Sugar Industry tries to hide its product within processed foods, and keep consumers from knowing how this stuff is poisoning us.
Gameau uses the occasion of his girlfriend’s pregnancy to go off his (Australian) “sugar free” diet, vowing to spend two months consuming the average daily amount of sugar that food processors sneak into our diets — 40 teaspoons at about 4 grams each.
He eats “low fat” yogurt loaded with sugar, “Just Right” cereal, fruit juices — which he shows us give us just the fruit sugars without the fiber — and the like, and proceeds to gain weight.
He is monitored by a “team” which he gives nicknames — “Dr. Blood,” “The Crusader,” etc.
He uses animation to reveal how the liver reacts to sugar, what causes diabetes.
And in particularly cutesie touches, he has actors like Hugh Jackman (as a magician giving “The Condensed History of Sugar”) and Stephen Fry reciting a Dr. Seuss-like poem about sucrose and fructose and how they’re bad for us.
This tends to lighten the scenes where Gameau visits an Aboriginal community dying of diabetes, a whole “dry” town (alchohol free) where people are dying prematurely from their sugar-dosed diet.
A visit to America reveals the Big Conspiracy, where sugar-dependent companies finance junk science to sew the seeds of doubt that sugar is killing us.
The deadly soft-drink Mountain Dew earns a whole chapter, as vast corners of the South raise their rural poor children on this stuff. We follow a Kentucky teen into a traveling dentist’s RV office where the kid is to have his teeth pulled and be fitted for dentures — at 18.
He gains weight and grows lethargic, and Gameau covers familiar ground from first frame to last. We revisit the sugar vs. fat war that American healthcare science fought in the ’60s, for instance.
“That Sugar Film” serves as a reminder, if we needed one, that learning food supplement speak and reading labels in search of “fructose” when we shop — as in what to avoid — is a survival skill in a world where junk food and sugar drinks aren’t the only sources of the daily overdose of Big Sugar that we’re being given.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Damon Gameau, Hugh Jackman, Stephen Fry, assorted experts, victims
Credits: Written and directed by Damon Gameau. A Samuel Goldwyn release.
Running time: 1:30