Opens Fri June 24
Clinton St. Theater
McDonald's bashing has basically evolved into its own genre of entertainment. Between Fast Food Nation, Super Size Me, and a host of sometimes humorous, always damning websites, the deconstruction and criticism of the world's largest restaurant chain has been pretty well documented and served up to the current generation of liberal activists, armchair and otherwise.
McLibel, a less polished, less glamorous example in comparison to its contemporaries, sings the usual songs (unhealthy food, exploited labor, sinister marketing to children, etc.) while focusing on the specific legal battle fought between British environmentalists Helen Steel and Dave Morris against the mega-corporation. After distributing a pamphlet enumerating the food chain's offenses, McDonald's slapped Steel and Morris with a libel suit.
This is essentially a David and Goliath tale, as the audience is shown McDonald's extreme tactics, such as sending spies to Greenpeace meetings, secret settlement discussions (revealed Watergate-style, through "secret tapes" on which top McExecutives wheedle and whine about why they get picked on instead of Burger King), and a surprise appearance from Ronald McDonald himself. Meant to inspire the little guy by providing a victorious example of ordinary people winning a battle against a multinational company, the feeling is emphasized by McLibel's low production values, painfully overacted courtroom reenactments, and hilariously melodramatic music.
All cheesiness aside, what became the longest trial in British history turns out to be a fairly interesting (if overly trod) story. Aimed pointedly at the choir, its slant is unambiguously bleeding heart and worshipful of its somewhat lackluster protagonists (both of whom seem a little self-righteous and whiny, an impression not helped by the documentary's cursorily boo-hooing glance at their personal lives). Regardless, for anyone who savors the ongoing anti-McD's bitchfest--or still needs motivation to resist those McNuggets cravings--McLibel serves as an effective supplement to the modern oeuvre currently available in a wide selection of mediums.