That Sugar Film is latest in a string of documentaries demonizing the food industries of the world as corporate liars bent on ruling the world by keeping us sedated as obese entertainment guzzling automatons (think 2008’s Wall-E). Pardon my paranoia, but as informative as Damon Gameau’s journey through the sweet world of sugar may be, the film itself is nearly undone by the saturation of health docs and health conscious culture today – and Damon’s tongue-in-cheek personality.
Damon Gameau is a healthy Aussie actor whose decided to give up sugar in his diet. Sugar is that two headed monster: on one hand it taste so deliciously awesome, but on the other it’s the devil’s fruit, unhealthy and bad for the body. This should be common knowledge, or at least the extent of our knowledge of sugar – a simplified duality of “it’s bad because they tell me it’s bad”, yet tastes so irresistibly good!
Do we really need someone like Damon Gameau telling us sugar is bad for our bodies? Well, Damon answers that question while illustrating why the stuff is so bad for us – damn him for it!
He takes viewers on a 60-day “sugar diet”, which entails not exceeding 40 grams per day. This also means in order to maintain a healthy diet Damon has to cut out fatty foods and only indulge in healthy, low-fat goods. Of course, this also mean means no junk food like candy and soft drinks as these treats would ruin the diet. Furthermore, Damon must maintain his exercise regimen that he arranged prior to the diet. Damon’s goal is to show the effects, if any, that sugar has on a healthy body.
Seems innocent enough, right? The results of Damon’s experiment soon demonstrate the devastating effects of sugar in foods most would normally think as healthy, revealing information about how much of the stuff we actually consume. It’s daunting how many so-called “healthy foods” are actually jam-packed with all kinds of sugars, just dressed up in different names like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. He also showcases the political lobbying, the skewed corporate funded research, and its effects on the body (which is the real focus of the film). What’s more surprising is how how a healthy person like Damon is affected by sugar, even in moderation, despite exercising regularly and consuming virtually his same calorie intake as before the experiment.
That Sugar Film works and accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to inform and surprise with facts. In this health conscious culture, however, little is shocking or actually new. Watching its many predecessors like Super Size Me (2004), Food, Inc. (2008) or King Corn (2007) would, presumably, make anyone a self-appointed expert to the evils of the food industry. The film is entertaining and quirky, with stars Hugh Jackman and Stephen Fry presenting the history of sugar and types of sugar, respectively. Then there are the Magic School Bus-styled bits where we enter Damon Gameau’s body as he illustrates body functions in relation to sugar. You can’t have a documentary these days and not have styled animated bits.
Still, there are times these tactics work and are amusing, but they can also be destructively, subliminally effective, subliminally affecting viewers to do the one thing the film warns about. More than once I was running to the fridge to fetch some ice cream, or at least, was consciously thinking about it. And apart from my weak will towards sugar I actually had an aversion towards Gameau’s bubbly, saccharine personality, which felt like a sundae with too many cherries smothering the rest of the dessert. Every moment felt like an opportunity for Damon to show-off his quirkiness, wit, and charm – in the end it feels like an overwhelming sugar rush.
Still, despite these urges I did enjoy the film. As much as I resisted it’s hard to dislike Damon Gameau and his quest. To be honest, I went in expecting yet another Morgan Spurlock style rip-off, and for the most part it is, but an accessible and entertaining one. That Sugar Film is destined to find a home on Netflix and other services like it, and will most likely inspire and become another reference documentary for health-conscious advocates. A little less of Gameau’s personality might have helped, and the ending musical number, just when you thought it was over, pokes fun at its own message with a Katy Perry-styled “California Gurls” video, should have been cut and relegated to a deleted scene.