2008 // USA // Robert Kenner // June 24, 2009 // Theatrical Print
B - If you've already devoured Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation or Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, you won't learn much in Robert Kenner's provocative documentary, Food, Inc., that you didn't already know. That might have something to do with Schlosser's producer credit, or the fact that both authors appear in and provide narration for the film. Kenner, in his theatrical feature debut, works within the comfortable confines of Alex Gibney's style, presenting Big Issues in a breezy, ever-so-slightly caustic package that preaches to the choir and looks damn slick while doing so. Fortunately, Food, Inc. refrains from indulgent stunts and cheap shots, preferring to lay out its case against industrial agriculture firmly, relentlessly, and with a warm, affirmative tone. Like any polemicist worth his salt, Kenner knows that a film like Food, Inc. won't convert his natural antagonists, but it may shift the perspective of viewers who weren't aware of the costs of modern agribusiness. Accordingly, the film's most enduring aspect is its human element: the mother who lost a son to E. coli poisoning, the seed cleaner financially ruined by Monsanto, and the ebullient organic farmer who emerges as a captivating advocate for a better way of eating.