The Weight of the Nation

The Weight of the Nation
With the tagline "Confronting America's Obesity Epidemic," there's absolutely no mistaking which side HBO's latest documentary, The Weight of the Nation, is on. Or maybe that's a little unfair, because while it does a rather good job of being even-handed and not too preachy in its approach, there's no way that it could be pro-obesity, as there's no positive spin on the huge issues that the U.S. healthcare system is facing. And then there's the fact that this generation is going to be the first in quite some time that isn't going to live as long as their parents ― this isn't going away anytime soon. Divided into four episodes, The Weight of the Nation starts off by dealing with an overview of the consequences that accompany being overweight and then tries to get to the bottom of how people gain weight. It throws in plenty of statistics to get their points across, but it's the interviews with people trying to deal with weight issues that hit home ― putting a human face on obesity makes it real and moves the entire documentary away from just finger pointing. Or rather, it stops short of simply blaming the individuals and talks about genetics, the financial aspects, advertising and so on. The problem is that much of the content falls into the really obvious category and it covers a great deal of very familiar ground, albeit with a shiny new coat of paint. But what it does very well is delve into the politics of the situation, especially when it comes to how the food and drink industry markets their products toward children. The third episode, "Children in Crisis," is utterly depressing on so many levels ― from the meals served in schools to the insanely aggressive marketing of junk food to children, it would appear that the outlook is hopelessly bleak. There is a slight touch of optimism towards the end, but the best hope might come from government legislation. However, considering how Republicans have responded to Michelle Obama's initiative, it isn't looking good. The Weight of the Nation does what it sets out to do, but with a running time of over four hours, it meanders far too much to be a complete success. There are some very powerful moments, but it could have benefited from shedding some excess material to make it more effective. Fittingly, there is four more hours of short films included as extras on another DVD, but they act more as a supplement to the main feature, rather than presenting anything fresh. (Warner)