Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is the anti-Super Size me, a documentary that seeks to show you just how easy it is to reboot your body and get back your health. Filmmaker Joe Cross was tipping the scales at 310 pounds, the result of a lifestyle gone insane with food, booze and no exercise. Besides his weight he suffers from an autoimmune disease that makes him break out in hives and forces him pop steroids daily. He started to realize that at 40 years old he really needs to start watching what he’s doing if he doesn’t want to end up prematurely dead.

With the support of his doctors he decides to go on a juice fast. For 60 days he sought to drink nothing but fresh juice, eschewing meals to chew (well, slurp) celery. To really test himself the Australian comes to the United States- hardly the place one thinks about when they want to lose a few pounds.

He takes a month in NYC and then sets out cross-country, talking to hundreds of people and juicing thousands of fruits, nuts and vegetables. Everywhere he goes he sees a familiar story- people just don’t eat vegetables, and if they do, they’re usually a tiny side with a gigantic slab of meat. Everyone’s overweight, everyone blames themselves, they know that they’re going to die from it but they’re not doing anything about it. He sets out to show people how easy it is to change their health around and starts dropping ridiculous amounts of weight in no time at all, keeping a picture of himself shirtless on hand to show everyone the difference.

On his journeys he meets a truck driver named Phil that has the same disease that he has, the first person he’s ever met with it. He finds in him a kindred spirit, although at 430 pounds Phil is in even worse condition. The last part of the film becomes much more serious as we watch Phil struggle against his habits and addiction, the more lighthearted feel almost abandoned as we see this man with serious cardiac issues try to turn his life around. As a truck driver who sits on his increasingly expanding ass for a majority of his day he decides to take off and devote himself entirely to his new lifestyle, and watching him stick with it and shed weight like nothing is pretty remarkable. But can he stick with it?

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is two parts inspirational movie blended with one part infomercial. It’s really stunning to see these men lose dozens of pounds in a matter of weeks, watching their health turn around completely as they get off medication and begin to live their lives again, but it’s also hard not to feel like you’re being sold on juicers. They do everything, you know! Not that that’s entirely a bad thing- you will certainly come out of the film feeling like eating better, and any film that actually gives you a tangible solution to a current crisis has to be commended over those that just point at all the bad things. It is amusing to note that the juicer he uses is from an Australian company (Breville), though…

The documentary is also sadly one of those panders to the stupids among us by including cutesy little cartoons that spoon-feed you incredibly simplified facts. It’s increasingly become common in these docs aimed at the mainstream, but just once I’d love one that treated you as an intelligent individual, rather than going the whole Mr. DNA “Dinosaur DNA!” route.

But despite a few missteps it’s a solid documentary on an important subject, and it’s clear that it’s already influencing people to think carefully about what they eat.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Fat Sick & Nearly Dead is currently playing at the Quad in NYC. The dvd is out right now and being sold in Whole Foods, and don’t forget that you can win it (along with a juicer, of course!) from us. Check the official site for more info.