Nonfiction films and television programming documenting various aspects of America’s burgeoning obesity epidemic seem to constitute their own peculiar entertainment subgenre these days, so one could be forgiven for approaching Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, Australian filmmaker/subject Joe Cross’ juice-diet road trip flick, with
some skepticism, thinking it little more than a rolling, sycophantic
infomercial for the health benefits of liquidated fruits and vegetables.
Which it is, actually — at least partly. Starting out at 310 pounds, the amiable Cross wears his foreignness throughout (yep, Men at Work and INXS even pop up on the soundtrack), deploying it heartily in the name of his personality-peddling film. But he doesn’t really connect his struggle with his choice to come to the United States for 60 days of “juice fasting,” other than explaining his decision by way of saying he loves hamburgers and American food. The first half of the movie, saddled with lame animated segments showing cells under attack and the like, does an inadequate job of linking Cross’ obesity with a chronic, debilitating autoimmune disease which he has also battled for years. The audience is served up a genial but indulgent and entirely aimless travelogue.
So it’s more than a small surprise when the film — leaning much more toward the sort of self-promotion found in Super Size Me rather than something like the fact-oriented, revelatory emotional punch of Food, Inc. — pivots at its halfway point, and becomes a heartrending portrait of Phil Staples (above right), a 429-pound truck driver whom Cross met in Arizona, who suffers from the same condition. His reaching out to Cross for help, and his ensuing amazing story, give the film an undeniable poignant punch, and might leave one pondering their own micronutrient intake. For more information, click here. (Reboot Media, unrated, 97 minutes)