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Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead: Weighed Down With Doc Cliches

Virtually every documentary cliché from the past decade finds its way into this account of director Joe Cross’s weight-loss odyssey, a retread-reversal of Super Size Me right down to the cheesy animation. An earnest, likable Aussie day-trader with money to burn, Cross traverses the United States for two months in the company of a camera crew and his beloved juicing machine, shedding 90 pounds and alleviating the effects of an autoimmune disease in the process. He stumbles across some genuine insights into the woeful American diet along the way in funny, frank chats with overweight Yanks, but sidesteps the role of race and class in the matter and fails outright to indict the processed-food industry. Just when it all begins to resemble an interminable juicer infomercial, Cross meets and converts 429-pound Phil, a gentle-hearted, near-broken Iowa truck driver whose physical and emotional turnaround (on Cross’s dime) is inspiring in every sense. Cross, or perhaps a savvy PA, has the good sense to shift the focus to Phil’s story, but while it’s hard to find fault in a filmed crusade against the tyranny of crummy “food,” you have to wonder if cable would’ve gotten the message out to more people.


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