King Corn: Review from My Netflix Queue
“A documentary about CORN?” groaned Motley Husband upon seeing the telltale Netflix red envelope in our mailbox. Eye roll. Sigh. “Corn? Seriously?” His eyes had that furtive, escapist look a teenager gets when trapped with his grandparents at the Golden Corral during “All You Can Eat Soft Meat Tuesdays.”
I know, I know, corn doesn’t sound like the most exciting subject matter of all time, but bear with me because King Corn is a documentary every movie lover should see. It has all the best elements of a light-hearted documentary: an intriguing premise, affectionate characters, zippy storytelling and lovable storytellers.
King Corn is written by and stars Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis, two genial East Coast college grads who set out to spend a year living in Iowa to raise an acre of corn and try to follow it through the American food chain. It doesn’t take a genius to see what comes next: the ills of mega-farm grain production and the impact of the prolific High Fructose Corn Syrup in American life. Let’s break it down:
-Mega farms equal the death of family homesteads
-Mass grain production equals feedlot cows with a deplorable quality of life
-Corn Syrup equals obesity, diabetes and, oh, hell, Satan
There, now you know. Corn Syrup is Satan. If you go down to hell you’re going to find a little red bottle of Karo with horns and a tail. Now please enjoy the rest of that corn syrup-soaked Frito you were just eating.
My point is that King Corn doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about the cancerous impact of mega farm production, but it tells it in a way that is humble and compelling. This isn’t a throw-acid-in-your-face and make-you-rescind-your-god kind of documentary. It has a gentle, loping pace reflective of the landscape in which it’s set. The salt-of-the-earth farmers who graciously and affectionately help Ian and Curtis farm their acre of corn are, of course, the victims in this race to make more food, faster and cheaper.
King Corn succeeds by telling their stories with simple humility. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the representative of the corn syrup association who appears in the film comes across as the very face of evil (you know, Karo bottle with horns). “Corn syrup is what makes a wonderful variety of food so affordable for American families.”
I suppose she has a point. After all, if it weren’t for corn syrup, we wouldn’t have such national treasures as Mountain Dew Baja Blast and Jimmy Dean Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick.
And yes, I’ve had them both.