(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 nutrition.

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.

Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1227378/

What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/fat_sick_and_nearly_dead_2011/

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper