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Fast Food Nation falls short of the book

As a book, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser is an amazing expose of the fast food industry in America. While its movie successor makes several of the same important points made by the book, it still falls short.

As a movie, Fast Food Nation has many admirable traits. It shows you the corruption of American meatpacking plants, the rough lives of the immigrants involved in the meatpacking industry, the lack of care on the parts of meatpacking industry officials and the capacity for power that those in charge of the companies have. It even offers several instances of quirky and ironic humor and, where called for, shocking images that make you think twice about your beloved double patty burger.

It shows the lives of those involved in the meatpacking industry in a realistic, non-melodramatic, non-Lifetime movie sort of way. It does a decent job of giving information to you straight and simple, even making scenes interestingly satirical by comparing the lives of some meat packing company executives with those of the workers inside of the meatpacking plants.

While films set in a documentary style are compelling, this film benefits from portraying a fictional story. When you see what people actually go through rather than just glancing at an alarming statistic, it puts the entire situation into perspective. Their approach and format were undoubtedly used well because it portrayed the characters in a realistic way.

What is doubtable is the sanity of the people who decided to cast Avril Lavigne in the movie. While Avril Lavigne has her music and movie careers, which are separate and equally tolerable, like it or not, credibility cannot be given to someone who spells “skater” with an 8. To cast her as a revolutionary, risk-taking college girl makes about as much sense as Lil’ Jon teaching D.A.R.E. It doesn’t work. Just say “No.”

Just say no to Lavigne and also to the random life of Amber, a high school student working at a fast food job smacked into the movie. While Amber’s part gives the audience a break from the politics of their not-so-happy meal, it contributes nothing. Fast Food Nation, as a book, is chock full of more information than you could possibly fit into a documentary without it going past four hours in length. So the random inclusion of a Amber takes away time in the movie that could have been filled with more powerful info.

The filmmakers could have put in the life of a lobbyist for free-range farms and shown the depth of congressional conspiracy shown in the book. Or they could have put in an FDA official trying to recall meat infested with a viral strain of E.coli and shown the laughable powers the FDA has.

Anything else but Amber, a teenager who bravely and boldly decides to quit her job at the fast food place even though she desperately needs it. Amber’s inclusion and life was unrealistic, not related to the book and filled with “American Dream” stereotypes. Because every teenager has the dream of quitting their job and setting bovines free with Avril Lavigne. That’s not reality at all. She had car insurance to pay. She wouldn’t have quit her job.

Although there are some instances in the film where one can be either utterly confused or irritated, on the larger scale, the movie does present most of its information from the book in a realistic way that sparks thought. But if you see the movie and it makes you think the meatpacking industry is shady at best, you’ve only eaten the fries. Read Eric Schlosser’s book if you want the triple patty burger and 15-gallon coke.