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Film review: 'Food, Inc.' explores the frightening food industry

Published: Friday, July 17 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Orozco family eats fast food in "Food, Inc.," which looks at food-industry standards.

Magnolia Pictures

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FOOD, INC. — ★★★ — Documentary feature about America's food industry; rated PG (drugs, vulgarity); Broadway Centre

Investigative journalist Eric Schlosser's articles and subsequent book "Fast Food Nation" exposed things about America's corporate-controlled food industry that were truly frightening.

Unfortunately, the movie adaptation of "Fast Food Nation" failed to convey most, if any, of those messages concisely or convincingly.

The documentary "Food, Inc." is the film "Fast Food" should have been. It's powerful, disturbing stuff.

However, you might not want to eat before you see it. Or afterward, for that matter. …

Among the experts director Robert Kenner interviewed for this film are Schlosser (who served as a co-producer) and Michael Pollan, a journalism professor and author of the book "An Omnivore's Dilemma."

Schlosser and the movie argue that a turning point in diminishing food-industry standards came when drive-in restaurants became drive-throughs.

At that point, restaurants turned into food "assembly lines," which stressed uniformity and speed — or quantity over quality.

But the film doesn't just target the food corporations and growers. According to the movie, legislators and governmental groups that are supposed to be responsible for food-industry reforms include former and current members of the corporations they're supposed to oversee.

Television-producer-turned-filmmaker Kenner employs a visual style that's reminiscent of the works of Academy Award-winning documentarian Errol Morris ("The Fog of War").

And Kenner's movie is unafraid to name names and point fingers at some fairly high-profile targets. (McDonald's, Monsanto, Perdue and Tyson are all either name-checked or get accusations made about some of their business practices.)

The film also expresses some skepticism about the organic foods industry. (The high prices of those products mean that they're not affordable or convenient for lower-income families.)

Admittedly, the movie gets bogged down in a section dealing with food-related health scares — recent E. coli outbreaks among them. But overall, it's some serious food for thought.

"Food, Inc." is rated PG and features drug references (steroids, antibiotics and toxic chemicals), some vulgar references (bodily functions and such) and some disturbing imagery (including scenes of animal slaughtering). Running time: 94 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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