Did you know that the ancient Roman gladiators were mainly vegetarians? It’s one of many myth-busting factoids offered in the vital, deftly assembled documentary “The Game Changers,” which takes a lively look at the merits — athletic, medicinal and even sexual — of plant-based eating.
Director Louie Psihoyos (an Oscar-winner for “The Cove”) tracks elite self-defense trainer and ex-mixed martial arts competitor James Wilks as he explores this dietary alternative, initially motivated by his need to speed the repair of a major knee injury.
Narrator Wilks, who turns vegan himself (and gets his heart-ailing dad to do the same), visits with an impressive group of super-athletes who follow plant-sourced eating regimens. Ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, cycling champ Dotsie Bausch, powerlifting record-holder Patrik Baboumian, former Tennessee Titan Derrick Morgan and others are living proof that swapping chicken for chickpeas is the way to go.
The film’s many claims are well-supported by dynamic graphics and persuasive input from physicians, professors, scientists and, yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger (he’s one of countless credited producers here). An experiment equating veganism with virility proves an intriguing, if giggly aside.
Psihoyos also helpfully covers the vast ecological benefit to reducing animal consumption plus the wily impact of “Real Men Eat Meat”-type marketing. But the movie could have used a more thorough, gram-for-gram comparison of plant-based and animal proteins. No matter, there’s much fine food for thought.
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Starts Sept. 27, Vintage Los Feliz 3, Los Angeles