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Laramie Movie Scope:
Killer at Large

An angry indictment of the American food industry

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 7, 2009 -- “Killer at Large” addresses the many causes of the obesity epidemic in America and it offers solutions. Unfortunately, the way the film is set up, a good many viewers will tune out its basic message because of religious beliefs and other strongly-held views. This film is a wake-up call to take action to save generations of Americans threatened by the ill effects of eating unhealthy foods.

The film hits the obesity epidemic on all fronts, quoting former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who calls obesity “The terror within.” Carmona said it will dwarf any terrorist attack. Indeed, it already has. An estimated 110,000 people annually die from obesity and that doesn't include the obesity-related diseases like cancer. An estimated one-third of all cancer deaths are related to obesity. The film traces one cause of obesity to human evolution. Since only 39 percent of Americans even believe in evolution, the film is fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. You can't really blame the film, though, since evolution is the foundation of modern biological science. The film argues that human bodies are adapted for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, which emphasizes eating food when it is available and prizing high protein foods like meat and high calorie foods like sweets. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle also requires lots of exercise since food is hard to come by. Our modern sedentary lifestyles, combined with hunter-gatherer appetites for meats and other unhealthy foods are a bad combination.

The film also blames large agribusiness corporations for targeting children with junk food advertisements on TV. In the 1970s the FCC proposed a rule banning junk food advertisements aimed at children, but dropped the idea after pressure from Congress which was, in turn, pressured by the junk food industry, according to the film. The film also discusses food distribution, examining why junk food, and unhealthy foods in general, are so much cheaper and more readily available than healthy foods. The film also looks at government policies, particularly farm subsidies and food labeling regulations. The film argues that government school lunch programs subsidize unhealthy foods, and so do farm subsidies. Food labeling avoids giving customers the very information they need about packaged foods and foods sold in restaurants.

Unfortunately, the film's emphasis on corporate responsibility and de-emphasis of individual responsibility almost makes it seem as though exercise is not an option in the war against obesity. One of the film's most shocking revelations, however, is the extent to which American life has become sedentary. One school physical education teacher estimates that some 40 percent of students he sees don't demonstrate enough physical coordination and training necessary to run. Another shocking revelation in the film is parental reaction to a California ban on junk food in schools. Parents are actually shown passing cookies to children through the school fence. Another scene has parents protesting in front of television studios protesting Sesame Street's change to promote foods that are healthier than cookies. What is wrong with these people! This film, imperfect as it is, is a real wake up call. It might even be enough to get Americans up off their fat butts and do something to save themselves and their children. This film rates a B+.

The DVD has deleted scenes, testimony before Congress by comedian Chevy Chase (who is being very serious here), scenes from the movie's New York City premiere and audio commentary. Talking heads in the movie include President Bill Clinton, Ralph Nader, Senators Tom Harkin and Sam Brownback, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor Mike Huckabee, and filmmaker Neil Labute.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2009 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)