Review: Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead (2011)

(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Aussie Joe Cross is the anti-Spurlock. He
has made a documentary of his odyssey while consuming
only life-saving food. He probably did save his own
life and the lives of others by first going on an
all-liquid vegetable juice fast and then by spreading
the word of this diet to others. We join him as he
spreads the gospel of juice fasts followed by a diet
exclusively of fruits and vegetables. He tells us of
his self-redemption and his explanation of the
principles is mostly entertaining, though eventually
repetitious. The case histories he presents are
effective and even sometimes moving. Along the way he
looks at the problem of bad diets in the United States
and Australia. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

At the start of this documentary Australian Joe Cross's diet was
bringing him to near-death. He weighed 310 pounds and had a
53-inch waistline. His consumption of food was immense and his
consumption of drugs to fight the effects of his diet and keep him
going was proportionally large. He decided to fight for his life
and that the way to do it was to go on a diet exclusively of
vegetable and fruit juice, a sinister-looking green potion that
would be his exclusive food. While he live on this diet he would
go to the United States and spend one month in New York City and
one month traveling across the country interviewing people about
nutrition and educating them about his juice fast and what a
powerful tool he expected it to be over the sixty days. After the
sixty days Joe no longer needs his medication and his doctor is
delighted with his condition.

The director/star/co-writer tells his story with illustrations in
the form of amusing animation interspersed with pieces of his
background. He conducts on-the-street interviews about diet,
nutrition, and people's attitudes on both. He openly proselytizes
for a healthy diet of vegetables and fruits. As his own proof of
the vast improvement that a good diet brings he talks with Phil, a
morbidly obese truck driver (429 pounds), and helps a woman who
suffers from migraines. Then about an hour into this 97-minute
film he returns home, his diet a very big health success. So what
will he do for the rest of the film? Joe gets a call from truck
driver Phil, who has decided he desperately needs Joe's diet and
his help. Phil is one of two brothers from Iowa, both morbidly
obese. So we see Phil's story as he is successful enough on the
diet that he becomes the local advocate and teacher of good

This all gives the feel of an infomercial crossed with a Biblical
story. Of course, Joe does not seem to be selling anything for
money. He is only trying to get people to salvage their lives by
improving their diets. His approach is a radical one, but one
which seems to be successful. Repeatedly we see Cross feeding
vegetables into his juicer and we hear people giving their opinion
of the flavor. There is a spectrum of people: some like it and
some find it odious. This is one film that suffers from not
providing a sample for the viewer to taste.

I have no reason to doubt Joe Cross's facts. Most people in both
the United States and in Australia have little more than a
rudimentary knowledge of nutrition and lack the will power to
confine themselves to a diet that could add years to their life,
but which lacks the appeal of fast food and pizza. Cross brings
his message on strong, but it is one that will not bring a very big
following. Also, Cross includes images of food that are far more
tempting than healthy. Seeing this film on an empty stomach might
have just the opposite effect than intended. But this film makes a
useful pairing to Morgan Spurlock's SUPERSIZE ME with its journal
of an unhealthy diet. Spurlock and Cross sent the same message by
documenting opposite diets. In the end Cross comes out the winner.
I rate FAT, SICK, & NEARLY DEAD a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

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Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper