DVD Release Date:  November 3, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  June 12, 2009
Rating:  PG (for some thematic material and disturbing images)
Genre:  Documentary
Run Time:  94 min.
Director:  Robert Kenner
Actors:  Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Barbara Kowlcyzk, Joel Salatin, Gary Hirshberg

Definitely not for the faint of stomach, Food, Inc. isn't a particularly easy movie to watch—especially if you're a meat lover. And another word to the wise? I'd also hold off on that big bucket of buttered popcorn while tuning in, too.

Many, many squeamish moments aside, however, Food, Inc. is still a great example of informative, compelling filmmaking, except for those occasional diversions into boring pie chart territory à la An Inconvenient Truth. Thankfully, those moments are few and far between.

Of course, it probably doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the dangers of routinely dining from any restaurant's "dollar menu." But director Robert Kenner, with help from writers Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food), is doing far more than simply exposing the evils of your favorite fast food chain's menu. After all, that has already been done so well in 2004's Super Size Me.

Taking a new approach on a familiar angle—something especially important for cost-conscious shoppers these days—Kenner is investigating what's wrong with food from its very origin. Linking the call for cheaply priced goods to the serious compromise of its quality—not to mention people's health in the process—it's sobering to hear exactly how much of the nutrition is removed from common grocery items and subsidized with fat and sugar because of the cost-saving benefits.  And with little in the way of government regulation to prevent these items from hurting those who can't afford to buy organic, watching Food, Inc. is a must for anyone, who, well, eats.

Inevitably, what's revealed in the process is shocking, which is precisely what the filmmakers probably intended to better illustrate their point. In addition to providing gripping personal testimonies of food-related deaths because of E Coli poisoning in beef and other unsightly factors, who knew that an all-American staple—corn—was such a bad guy in the world of eating?

The filmmakers assert that it's government-subsidized corn that's one of the chief culprits. Grown cheaply and quickly so there is lots of it readily available, it becomes the building block of everything we eat—whether it's the high fructose corn syrup that's been linked to obesity or the corn-fed beef that eventually marbles (because of the corn) and leads to the production of E Coli that frequently makes it way to the food chain and makes us sick (and can often lead to death).

I'll admit that it doesn't take long to get seriously bummed out, not to mention grossed out (especially during the whole "how chickens are really raised and slaughtered" portion of the film) when watching Food Inc.

Unlike most flicks with a decidedly happy ending, the documentary really offers little in the way of solutions to a myriad of problems. But if anything, watching will momentarily make you pause the next time you put something in your cart (or your mouth) because of this ever-growing list of nutritional concerns. Or if you're a glass half-empty person, you'll probably immediately indulge in those fries and doughnuts because, well, life is short, and what can you really do it about it anyway? If a more proactive approach is more your speed, though, there's plenty of fodder for further investigation—and action.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None, other than talk of pesticides and chemicals in food.
  • Language/Profanity:  None.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None.
  • Violence:  There are a few disturbing scenes that involve animal cruelty and show an up-close-and-personal-look at the nasty realities of what's in our food, particularly meat.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.