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Friday, November 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Fast Food Nation": Linklater cooks up a fast-food movie

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Fast Food Nation," with Greg Kinnear, Bobby Cannavale, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Luis Guzmn, Wilmer Valderrama. Directed by Richard Linklater, from a screenplay by Eric Schlosser and Linklater, based on the book by Schlosser. 106 minutes. Rated R for disturbing images, strong sexuality, language and drug content. Several theaters.

Those astonished to learn that animals are slaughtered to make hamburgers may well find Richard Linklater's clumsy "Fast Food Nation" educational; the rest of us may be underwhelmed. Eric Schlosser's nonfiction book, published in 2001, was an important work of research, raising awareness about unsavory (and often shocking) practices in the fast-food industry. An immediate best-seller, it got a lot of people talking, and rightfully so.

Five years later, it comes to the screen not as a documentary (which might have been quite powerful), but as a dumbed-down narrative feature, filled to the brim with nasty executives, noble immigrants, idealistic teenagers and sad-eyed cattle. Linklater and Schlosser's screenplay, which intertwines a number of stories set in the fictional ranching town of Cody, Colo., is astonishingly one-dimensional. The pile-up of characters guarantees that nobody makes much of an impression; the lack of nuance means that nobody seems real. An executive's wife jokes about how dead kids (from E.coli) can't buy fast food; a teen wonders earnestly why bad guys always win.

Throughout, Linklater (who's capable of a much lighter touch, as in "Before Sunrise" or "School of Rock") dangles the idea of watching the slaughter; it's the one bit of suspense in the movie, and sure enough, he delivers. Yes, it's sickening, but is it good filmmaking or just for shock value? Read Schlosser's book if you want to educate yourself about fast food, then rent a better Linklater movie.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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