Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Showbiz
Grade: B+
Director: Paul David Kennamer Jr.
Written by: Paul David Kennamer Jr.
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, James Cameron, Suzy Amis, Penn Jillette, T. Colin Campbell, Joel Fuhrman, John McDougall, Andrew W. Saul, Michael Greger, Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., Neal Barnard, Dean Ornish, Kim Williams Scott Stoll
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 12/14/16

Opens: December 14, 2016If I hear another health documentary quoting Hippocrates’ famous saying, “Let food be thy medicine,” I just might scream. Happily there is no such quote in Pal David Kennamer Jr.’s “Eating You Alive,” though he does quote another Greek, I think Socrates, who once said “Eat to live; do not live to eat,” though his drinking, or at least his imbibing of one particular liquid, did nothing for his health.
Speaking of food, another food film opened this month in select locations. “Eating You Alive” does not contribute at all to those of us who have been keeping up with the controversies; whether saturated fat is evil or whether refined carbs will do you in. But if you have not kept up, here is a painless way to bring your knowledge up to par. In fact, if you believe the statements therein and adopt the whole foods, plant-based diet, you may find that this is one of the most important documentaries you’ve seen. Or not. First, a caveat: beware of charlatans in the nutrition industry who try to get your attention and money by going against traditional knowledge. They realize that, like Dr. Oz, you can score heavily (no pun intended) with food advice by standing out from others. On the other hand, beware of conventional advice on nutrition, usually government decrees, because many government officials are in bed with food corporations. Doctors who promote traditional use of food may enjoy the junkets that the big companies give for their testimony.

The doctors and patients herein have their philosophies totally in line with the view that the worst things we can eat are fat (not only the saturated kind), salt and sugar. The salt and sugar controversies are the subject of other docs; this one focuses on just the role of animal-based products and how they can do you in, and how you can cure yourself of assorted illnesses, even those that have not been put into remission by drugs, chemo and radiation, by adopting this way of eating.

If you read only this one book, you probably would not need to see movies like this one: that’s Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.’s “Reversing Heart Disease.” But even if you have perused its pages, you may need a booster to continue with the Spartan eating that he and others on this celluloid recommend. They can talk from now until Armageddon about how delicious it is, but…it isn’t. But based on your illnesses like diabetes, it may be the only way to save your life and restore your health.

Some major points: 1) We have more pills than ever before, but also more illness than ever; 2) Young people think they’re invincible so they eat any and all junk foods, ignoring the ways that such a diet can shaft them in in a few decades; 3) there is no asparagus lobby, but there are political groups pushing their unwholesome agenda such as the dairy industry and the meat industry, and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture could be in their pockets; 4) meat is inefficient. One-third of our land space is taken up with livestock, and 1800 gallons of water are needed to make one burger; 5) champion race horses get all their protein from plants.

Doctors know how to cure. No country can compare to our own for treating disease. But docs do not stress how to prevent disease. If you have a nail in your foot, you can either take Advil to reduce the pain of walking, or you can remove the nail. Nice metaphor.

One major problem: the music. The tinkling piano and occasional elevator tunes simply interfere with the speakers. Music has a role in thrillers and romances, but who needs to compete with these talking heads?

Are you ready to take the plunge, reducing your own chances for disease and, in effect, voting against the meat industry which makes every day in an animal’s life a hell?

Unrated. 112 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – B
Technical – B-
Overall – B+


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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