Blending anti-sugar activism with the comedic, first-person approach made famous by Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me,” “That Sugar Film” could really use a subtitle to help distinguish it from last year’s sugar-themed documentary “Fed Up,” with which it bears an awkward similarity. I propose: “No, Not That Sugar Film, This Other One”
Like the 2014 Katie Couric-produced film, this new exposé also makes a good case against processed sugar, with the added benefit that its message is delivered via a filmmaker (Damon Gameau) who has decided to eat 40 teaspoons of the stuff per day, in an effort to demonstrate its deleterious effects. If this sounds a little like Spurlock’s memorable experiment, in which the filmmaker ate nothing but McDonald’s food for a month, it’s no accident. Gameau, a genially photogenic Australian actor making his feature filmmaking debut here, knows that a spoonful of shtick helps the medicine go down. “That Sugar Film” is not only entertaining and informative, but also deeply disturbing, as Gameau puts on pounds and inches — along the way developing the beginnings of fatty liver disease.
Helping Gameau make the point that too much sugar is bad — and often hidden in foods that are perceived as healthy — are fellow Aussie actors Hugh Jackman and Brenton Thwaites, as well as the British thespian Stephen Fry. Although Gameau’s film includes a fair amount of science, he and his helpers sweeten the film’s statistics, delivering them in clever, accessible ways.
Nothing the film says, though, is quite as effective as what Gameau shows us in the visible results of his overindulgence, which affects his waistline, mood and energy levels. “I personally think you’re insane to be doing this at all,” says one of Gameau’s doctors, a team of whom closely monitored the filmmaker’s health during the 60-day experiment. But then again, the doctor notes, Gameau is merely making a show of what many of us are already eating in the privacy of our homes.
Unrated. At the Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market and also available on demand. Contains some coarse language and a scene of painful-looking oral surgery. 90 minutes.