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DVD Review: Fat Head

Comedy, Education, Satire, and Fast Food

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (1 Review)


Updated July 08, 2013

Fat Head DVD
Image Courtesy Morningstar Entertainment Inc.
Do you like to be entertained and educated at the same time? If so, then this may be just the DVD for you. Intended partially as a response to the movie Super Size Me!, but also to educate people about common nutritional myths, comedian Tom Naughton has put together a documentary film that is partly education, partly in-your-face satire, and partly the story of one man's journey through the zany nutritional culture of the early 21st century.

The Anti-"Super Size Me"

The central action of the movie revolves around a fast-food experiment. In the 2003 documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock goes on a fast-food diet for a month where he stuffs himself with as much McDonalds food as he possibly can (at one point he throws up, he has eaten so much) and stops exercising entirely, even taking cabs for what would have been short walks. He gains a bunch of weight and lots of health problems. Naughton is skeptical that the fast food per se was Spurlock's problem, but rather the choices he made. Naughton decides to eat fast food for a month, but to "use his functioning brain" and make more intelligent choices. He limits his carb count to 100 per day, and his calories to 2000. And by the end, he has lost 12 pounds, has a lower body fat percentage, and no adverse health reactions.

Note that Naughton is not advocating a fast-food diet, but, rather, using our own "functioning brains" when making food choices.

Myth-Busting: Great Stuff

Along the way Naughton gives us some entertaining history lessons: How we came to believe that fat in our diets was bad, how we came to believe that humans should eat a lot of grains (no other mammals eat grains as their natural food), and other commonly-held nutritional beliefs. It's sort of a fast-forward version of the first part of Gary Taubes' book Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Naughton also attempts to debunk some of the prevailing myths around the obesity epidemic. He points out the the average weight gain in the last few decades is 8 to 10 pounds, and that a good percentage of this can be explained by the aging of the population and shifts in ethnicity (and, I would add, less smoking).

My favorite parts of the film were the interviews with nutritional experts and some GREAT animations of human physiology. If you are having trouble understanding the connection between carbohydrates, insulin, and weight gain, you'll love Naughton's animations.

Not So Great Stuff

I don't like to be the person who rains on someone else's fun. Furthermore, I've read many reviews of this film and no one else seems to feel the way I do about some of the comedy in the movie, so I'm totally willing to chalk this up to different people having different senses of humor. But for me, the film would have been improved by dropping some of the sarcastic tone, which at times crossed over into being mean-spirited. I don't think many true advances come from making fun of other people, however entertaining some seem to find it. On the other hand, by the time I finished watching I realized that this was not what the majority of the movie was about, and as it progressed there was less and less of it, which I was thankful for.

Another suggestion I would make is to narrow the scope of the movie a bit and tighten the editing. It is SO free-ranging that it can be a bit dizzying at times. Also, some implications weren't well-explained. For example, the importance of fat to growing brains is well-taken, but I think it's a stretch to connect fat-free milk and ADD.

Still, these are minor criticisms in a movie that has so much great stuff to offer. It will have you looking at nutritional news through new eyes!

2013 Update

In 2013, Naughton came out with a "Director's Cut" of the film, which includes some slight re-edits, and a section at the end of updates in the science in the years since the film came out. Also he tells of some diet changes he and his family have made since the film.

About the DVD

This DVD is 104 minutes, includes extended interviews with many of the experts interviewed in the film. It is available in DVD and streaming formats.

See Clips of the Film at the Web Site

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 3 out of 5
Deeply Flawed Documentary, Guest PT_M

What a mess this film is. The core message of the film involves the arguments now being made against the conventional wisdom about the ""Lipid hypothesis"" (saturated fat elevates cholesterol and cholesterol causes heart disease) and that saturated fats are in fact a natural and valuable part of the human diet, and that obesity and disease are actually the result of carbs, sugars, and unsaturated fats. And the useful parts of Fat Head are the parts that make that case and explain the scientific theories about the mechanisms involved. Sadly, however, the failed stand-up comic who made this film is not content to simply make that case. Instead he first presents an irrelevant and somewhat incoherent assault on Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me, which then morphs into a right wing anti-""Big government"" theory about why everything we've been taught is ""bologna,"" propounded by a nanny state working in concert with radical vegetarians and a corrupt scientific and medical establishment. Along the way we are treated to such opinions as the notion that people in poverty are more likely to be overweight simply because non-whites are more genetically predisposed to have ""thicker"" bodies, and that court-mandated desegregation through busing made children fat. At the same time that Naughton theorizes about evil government policies and deception, he argues that consumers have ""functioning brains"" and that any government regulation is the area of nutritional information constitutes an assault on individual liberty. Somehow the editor of a Libertarian opinion magazine gets included among the medical and diet experts he interviews. Naughton's tedious and sophomoric attempts at humor constantly sink the film like a stone, such as when he asks passersby on the street if they ever had a heart attack after eating fettuccine. Perhaps the most welcome moment in the film is when his wife asks him if he is a moron, as he attempts to use her in one of his childish sequences. A critical study of the scientific evidence on both sides of the low carb vs. low fat debate would be a very useful and topical subject for a documentary. Fat Head, unfortunately, is not that film. I gave it three stars only for its brief moments of on-topic focus, which will be worthwhile viewing for anyone not already familiar with the writing of Gary Taubes among others who have argued against the lipid hypothesis. If you are already familiar, this film deserves no stars.

11 out of 62 people found this helpful.

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