Moviegoers would be hard-pressed to find a film more laden with corporate logos than "Fed Up" — and that's one of the strengths of this galvanizing documentary: It pulls no punches in its informed outrage against the food industry, zeroing in on the rampant use of sugar and its many multisyllabic variations.
Some of the sweeteners sound straight from the good earth (agave nectar) and some straight from the lab (maltodextrin), but Stephanie Soechtig's eye-opening film makes clear that they're interchangeable in terms of their cumulative harmful effects on the human body. And so the U.S. finds itself in a health crisis, with diabetes in children reaching epidemic proportions.
Most trenchantly, "Fed Up" shows the shortsightedness of the "eat less, exercise more" formula when 80% of packaged foods — including those that pass themselves off as "natural" — contain some form of sugar, an addictive substance. That formula continues to demonize people, as evidenced by the documentary's affecting portraits of obese teens and their families.
With narration in the first person by Katie Couric (an executive producer, along with Laurie David), Soechtig puts mainstream clout to work to deliver a hard-hitting message. Her mix of archival material, punchy graphics and concise talking-head commentary traces a troubling modern history. It's yet another story of governance by corporate lobby, as federal policies put profit over public welfare — and even the first lady's fitness campaign plays nice with purveyors of sugar-packed products.
Testifying before Congress, food industry representatives spew the kind of defensive double-talk that was once the domain of tobacco executives. One, looking particularly miserable, insists that Ronald McDonald isn't a marketing device for reaching kids but a conduit of "magic and fun."
"Fed Up." MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements including smoking, brief mild language. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. At the Landmark, West Los Angeles.