DENVER, March 28, 2011 — Joe Cross may have an Aussie accent, but he has an All-American gut.
Or, at least he did before embracing a juice-heavy diet.
His physical transformation, like a reverse “Super Size Me,” is the heart of a new documentary “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.” The film takes the Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock approach, letting Cross’ personality power the narrative.
Cross is a likable bloke with a sensible message the masses could stand to hear. Unfortunately, “Fat,” available via Video on Demand, April 1, as well as select theaters, on April 4, veers into infomercial land a mite too often. Cross extols the virtues of fasting, without really breaking down the consequences, or letting skeptics have their say. There is, however, enough humanity between the juicings to make the movie a nutritious ride.
As the film opens, Cross, who co-directed the film, stares down more than just an eating problem. He suffers from a rare auto-immune disorder that could cut his life short, if he continues eating to excess.
He decides to take drastic measures, and goes on a 60-day juice-only fast, to lose weight and take back control over his life. It works. He stops taking the myriad pills meant to keep him healthy, and watches his body slim down in remarkable fashion.
When he meets a heavyset American suffering from the same disorder, the two team up to prove the wonders of a juice diet.
“Fat” leans heavily on Cross’ no-nonsense persona, and a smattering of sharply executed animated bits. He’s not the ruffled “Everyman” like Moore claims to be, and he’s far less of a jokester than Spurlock. Cross is serious about his mission, but he’s also genial enough to make others open up about their own weight issues.
Cross’ “man on the street” interviews feel precious at first, but when he bears down gently on his subjects, frank answers emerge about why so many people lug around so many excess pounds.
“I’m here for a few good years, and I’m gonna eat what I want,” one person tells Cross.
Cross and co. clearly support the juicing method for better health, and some of the film sequences feel like contrived advertisements. But—Cross does not always sugarcoat the diet’s appeal. When a housewife goes on the juice fast for 10 days, she admits the juice doesn’t taste very good, and that’s she’s initially starving without her three regular meals to fill her stomach.
The film’s heavy-handed message is blunted by its clarion call for personal responsibility, a reasonable antidote to any proselytizing going on.
“Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know: Eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods, start moving, and stop the excuses. However, by putting a human face on our eating woes, it could change a few hearts, minds and stomachs.
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