A branded exposé of branding

Director Morgan Spurlock and Joshua Wanatik. JetBlue is one of the firms that documentarian Spurlock persuaded to finance his film on product placement in the movies.

Morgan Spurlock gets to have his cake and eat it, too.

And then sell it, shamelessly.

In POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, the documentarian who turned himself into a physical wreck for his debut film, the nothing-but-McDonald's-for-a-month Super Size Me, explores the billion-dollar world of product placement. You know, James Bond downing a Heineken, Tony Stark driving an Audi, and every movie star in the world Googling on iBooks.

In a move that's at once meta and masterful, Spurlock goes about exposing the branding industry by getting brand names to fund his movie. Hence, the title: Spurlock's biggest backer is POM, the pomegranate beverage in the fancy twin-globe bottles. Spurlock wears Merrell shoes, drives a Mini Cooper, extols the virtues of Ban deodorant - in all, his savvy screen treatise is sponsored by 20 companies, from Amy's Pizzas to Sheetz gas stations.

And along the way, we get to see Spurlock make his pitch to a few of the more than 600 companies he either cold-called or confabbed with, uncovering the marketing machinations that drive Hollywood and the advertising industry, and impact all of us, whether we like it or not.

Big-time directors J.J. Abrams, Quentin Tarantino, and Brett Ratner reflect on their professional and artistic relationships with brands and branding, and Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader chime in with philosophical and consumer-advocacy views (speaking of Nader, stay for the credits).

Is Spurlock selling out by pulling off this stunt? Is he biting the hand that feeds him? Is he working both sides against the middle?

And does he think JetBlue is the best airline on the planet?

You bet.

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/


POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Directed by Morgan Spurlock. With Morgan Spurlock. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

Running time: 1 hours, 30 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for some language and sexual material).