Joe Cross may have an Aussie accent, but he has an All-American gut.
Or, at least he did before embracing a juice-heavy diet.
His physical transformation, like a reverse “Super Size Me,” is the heart of a new documentary “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.” The film takes the Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock approach, letting Cross’ personality power the narrative.
He’s a likable bloke with a sensible message the masses could stand to hear. “Fat,” available via Video on Demand services starting April 1 as well as select theaters, veers into infomercial land a mite too often. Cross extols the virtues of fasting without really breaking down the consequences or letting any skeptics have their say. But there’s enough humanity between the juicings to make the movie a nutritious ride.
Cross, who co-directed the film, is staring down more than just an eating problem as the film opens. He suffers from a rare auto-immune disorder which could cut his life short if he continues eating to excess. So he takes drastic measures. He decides to go on a 60-day juice-only fast to lose weight and take some control over his life.
It works – and then some. He stops taking the myriad pills meant to keep him healthy and watches his body slim down in remarkable fashion. When he meets a heavyset American suffering from the same disorder, the two team up to prove the wonders of a juice diet.
“Fat” leans heavily on Cross’ no-nonsense persona and a smattering of sharply executed animated bits. He’s not the ruffled Everyman like Moore claims to be, and he’s far less of a jokester than Spurlock. He’s serious about his mission, but he’s also genial enough to make others open up about their own weight issues. Cross’ “man on the street” interviews feel precious at first, but when he bears down gently on his subjects some frank answers emerge about why so many people lug around so many excess pounds.
“I’m here for a few good years, and I’m gonna eat what I want,” one person tells Cross.
Cross and co. clearly support the juicing method for better health, and some sequences feel like contrived advertisements for the plan. But Cross doesn’t always sugarcoat its appeal. When a housewife goes on the juice fast for 10 days she admits the juice doesn’t taste very good and that’s she’s initially starving without her three regular meals to fill her stomach.
The film’s heavy-handed message is blunted by its clarion call for personal responsibility, a reasonable antidote to any proselytizing going on.
“Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods. Start moving and stop the excuses. But by putting a human face on our eating woes it could change a few hearts, minds and stomachs.
(Photo: Joe Cross connects with Phil Staples, an American suffering from both lousy eating habits and the same auto-immune disease Cross endures in “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.” Reboot Media)