Tuesday, October 02, 2007

­BFF: Million Calorie March

There... Done with the Boston Film Festival's features - I'll probably write a little something up about the shorter films, since the filmmakers were by and large nice folks who deserve at least as much ink as the guys who made Metrosexual or The Poet - just short of two weeks after the festival ended. Better than I do with Fantasia, but then again, it's not like the BFF straps me down and force-feeds me stuff I want to write about the way Fantasia does. What can I say, but there's been baseball and stuff at work and I swear, something about the experience of seeing Dragon Wars on Saturday actually made me ill.

Anyway, I see the Brattle has started announcing titles for the Boston Fantastic Film Festival, so I can start the process all over again.

Million Calorie March

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 September 2007 at AMC Boston Common #17 (Boston Film Festival 2007)

The subject that inspired Gary Marino's Million Calorie March - both the documentary and the event itself - is certainly worth the audience's attention; adult and child obesity is a major problem in the United States. As a movie, though, it falls into the unfortunate trap of meeting modest expectations: Gary's trek was neither a rousing success nor a catastrophic failure, so the movie winds up feeling something like a vanity project.

The event of the title is Gary's eighty-day walk from Jacksonvlle, Florida to Boston, Massachusetts, to raise money and attention for the cause of fighting obesity in general and his "Project Excel" foundation in particular. He would walk about fifteen miles in a day, with his partners trailing him in an RV meant to serve as his headquarters and rest stop, with stops along the way to give speeches and interviews. Live with Regis & Kelly covers the kickoff and he's scheduled to make a stop there when he arrives in New York, and he meets some people along the way.

And, basically, that's what happens. There are some hiccups along the way - the RV gets banged up on one of the first days, he has some pain in his feet, and the amount of money raised during the trek is not that impressive. There's basically zero drama; the RV getting its roof torn up just means they stay in motels more than campgrounds, which doesn't turn into a critical drain on their budget. We're told that Gary and the trip's co-ordinator are butting heads, but we don't see it that much.

Gary does meet some nice folks along the way, and that's usually a nice bit. Gary's a friendly guy and the people he meets in the street at least seem to be taking his message seriously. He's also a good public speaker, so the stops he makes to lecture about obesity, food addiction, an the problems that come with it (diabetes, sleep apnea) look like they may get through.

There's also some staged bits in the beginning that work less well; he recreates the moment at the doctor's office where he learned that his weight had reached 397 pounds, but sort of glosses over the exact methods he used to get back down to a little more than half that. There's also some cringe-worthy moments as he shows the roots of his food addiction as a kid in some scenes. The bits about what he's done since at the end aren't bad.

Gary Marino doing this walk is a nice little story. In the hands of an exceptional filmmaker, it could maybe have become more; as it stands, it's just okay.

Also at eFilmCritic

3 comments:

Ann said...

Thank you for the nice post.

Bryan Hilton said...

Just saw this film at the Northampton Film Festival and can't disagree with this review more. The film was moving, educational and inspiring. The characters were hysterical in it. It should get 4 stars. The subject bares his sole, fesses up to depression, sleep apnea, morbid obesity, food addiction, near bankrupcy, etc and this reviewer calls it a vanity project? Has he ever done anything in his life that qualifys him to review movies???

Jason said...

Actually, I said it "winds up feeling something like a vanity project", which I think is fair. I've got no doubt that Mr. Marino undertook his walk, and made this film, with nothing but the best intentions of helping others, any time someone makes a movie about themselves, there is a weird feeling there.

If you felt the movie was moving and inspiring, great. I just thought it was nice, neither one of the best nor one of the worst films I've seen in whatever time period you care to name. I think one of the challenges in reviewing and criticizing documentaries is separating the merit of the subject matter from the actual quality of the movie. "Million Calorie March" had a quality topic, but middle-of-the road execution, and it's the execution I was grading.

As to what qualifies me to review movies, well, what "qualifies" you to give your opinion? I just do it, apparently well enough that others have found value in linking to and republishing them.