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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (Unrated)

Release Date: November 4th, 2005 (NYC-Village East Cinemas) by Brave New Films.
Directed by Robert Greenwald.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about Wal-Mart’s negative impact on small communities.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The greed and insensitivity of some large companies has already been explored in other documentaries such as Super Size Me and The Corporation . It’s not surprising, then, that Wal-Mart just cares about profits over business ethics. Director Robert Greenwald includes many interviews with individuals—particularly ex-Wal-Mart employees—who react to Wal-Mart’s impact on their lives in their small town. Their problems are very simple: Wal-Mart doesn’t pay them enough for their basic survival needs and causes small businesses to shut down. Even though these points are made over and over, Greenwald presents them with enough evidence to make them compelling. For example, the Walton family, who founded Wal-Mart, has billions of dollars, but only donated a total of $6,000 to a fund that helps their employees in need while Wal-Mart employees donated roughly $2,000,000, collectively. In Wal-Mart factories overseas in China, employees work in poor conditions with extremely low wages. The dubbed interviews with the Chinese workers are brief and slightly redundant, but at least they show how wide-spread Wal-Mart’s unethical business practices are. Greenwald also tackles Wal-Mart’s impact on the environment: they store packages outside for many months while the rainwater carries some of the toxic materials to a near-by river. In a Michael Moore-ish method, he counteracts CEO Lee Scott’s positive points about Wal-Mart during a speech with evidence that disproves him—and makes him look like a liar. He also includes Wal-Mart commercials which are just as hard-to-believe as Lee Scott’s speech.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Beyond Wal-Mart’s obvious greed for profits, Greenwald doesn’t dig deep enough to explore where their greed comes from. If the love of money is the root of all evil, is the Walton family really “evil”? However, it is difficult to get to the root of the problem without interviews from the Walton family themselves so that we hear their side of the story. Nonetheless, it’s satisfying and inspiring to hear that people from small towns have gathered together and succeeded to stop Wal-Mart from opening in their town.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Occasionally redundant and unsurprising.


THE BOTTOM LINE: A compelling and fascinating, but not enough analysis of the evidence to be surprising or insightful.


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