Judge Chris Kulik has stopped worrying about being too big for his britches.
"Obesity is the terror within."—Dr. Richard Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General 2002-06
The latest study into the nation's obesity epidemic, Killer at Large follows on the heels of 2004's Super Size Me and 2006's Fast Food Nation. While the results are not nearly as hilarious, they are twice as hideous, as producer-director Steven Greenstreet (This Divided State) non-jokingly probes into an epidemic that—sadly—most Americans are refusing to even acknowledge. Produced mostly by nutritionists, Killer At Large provides a good case that the government's weak mandate of "exercising more" has never worked.
When we have junk food lobbyists who are ensuring we are going to get obese no matter who tries to fight it, it generates a complete contradiction. Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona was repeatedly told to shut up because he wanted to denounce obesity as not only a crisis, but also highlight it as a more important topic than terrorism. According to the film, back in 2003, people didn't want to listen to the alarming statistics of children getting type 2 diabetes and liposuctions. They just wanted us to go in and hunt for Osama bin Laden, which despite promises from the Bush administration, never happened.
One of the most eye-opening sequences of the doc is hearing author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) explain how we came to be a country that consumes corn on a daily basis. Of course, this highly processed (and re-processed) corn becomes corn starch and corn liquor. Add to that dextrose, fructose, sucrose, sucralose (if you've never heard of these things, look 'em up), and it's disturbing how much sugar we put in our bodies. Then, of course, we had Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, which did more harm than good, as Greenstreet also emphasizes in great detail. Not only did the Act turn gym and health into a virtual electives but it also allowed kids to advance to the next grade level even if they have failed them.
All told, Killer at Large does a mostly successful job of educating the viewer, with the usual assortment of archived footage (including a lot of lifts from news sources), animation, and graphs/data. Some of this material was covered in detail in earlier docs, but Greenstreet is able to expand upon the topic without it becoming repetitive. He also doesn't hesitate to shock the viewer with scenes of liposuction (with the case of 12-year-old Brooke Baker examined in detail), kids' eating practices at school (bathing pizza in ranch dressing???), and McDonalds' obscene marketing techniques. The doc does stumble at times, mostly in overly gorging (no pun intended) on certain sub-topics while also not nourishing itself enough on others. Still, we listen intently to its clear and precise message.
I want to address how Killer at Large might be perceived in some political circles. Since the controversial Fahrenheit 9/11, it seems now everyone is viewing a documentary from a political angle, whether it be conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican. Bush is mentioned several times, yet his attempts—or lack thereof—of putting a hold on childhood obesity are also brought up; you hear what you expect from a president who hails from the fattest state in the Union. Next, you have Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose ban on junk food and sodas in the school system spawned an unforeseen backlash of stinky proportions. All I'm saying is that the film doesn't take a political stance and doesn't choose idealistic sides, despite what you may have read elsewhere. Everyone on the bandwagon should be on the same page. After all, Former President Clinton and Presidential nominee Mike Huckabee are working together on this issue.
Produced by Shinebox Media Productions, Killer at Large is given a swell DVD package courtesy of The Disinformation Company. Visually, we have a modestly clean, somewhat compressed/cropped 1.85:1 widescreen image that is never really jarring but it could prove to be annoying to some. Its low-budget, cable-TV feel is perfectly acceptable; still, when you are caught up with the issues, the presentation shouldn't matter. No subtitles, but dialogue is easily heard in the DD 2.0 stereo track. Regardless, it's in the extras where the disc shines:
Audio Commentaries: You have two to choose from. One is from a lone Greenstreet, who keeps talking all throughout and infuses how much it took to get this 2-year project off the ground and into theatres. The second is with four producers, which is a little livelier but just as professional. Both are well worth jumping into, although my preference is with the director.
New York City Premiere: Greenstreet and several of the producers introduce the film at its November release date. Among those in attendance are Chevy Chase and his wife, who both get awards for their efforts in raising awareness of the toxic food environment and how it's endangering our children.
Chevy Chase's Congressional Testimony: Exactly what it says, and it appears complete from its C-Span-like source.
Deleted Scenes: Six are provided here, with the small drawback being you have to view them individually and not all in succession. Among other things, we also learn about the first national health crisis in the early 18th century involving whiskey made from corn liquor, the battle between the WHO and the sugar lobbyists, a hidden camera interview with the buffoonish head of McDonald's, and a town in England that went so healthy its McD's was forced to close down. Good stuff!
45-Minute Educational Version: As with Super Size Me, a more school-friendly version was constructed and it should fit into any health class time slot.
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