Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 20
  2. Negative: 2 out of 20

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Critic Reviews

  1. 88
    At times funny, but mostly tragic, Scurlock's film is important viewing for any who owns a credit card without realizing that it's a wallet time bomb.
  2. 80
    Another strong journalistic-style film, this one exposes how unbelievably rapacious the financial industries have become in extending credit to unlikely prospects -- among them college students, nursing-home residents, small children, dogs and dead people.
  3. Reviewed by: Joe Leydon
    Intelligent, informative and unusually entertaining documentary errs only when it yanks too insistently on heartstrings while focusing on worst-case scenarios involving desperate debtors driven to suicide.
  4. James Scurlock's documentary Maxed Out, tells the bone-chilling, bloodcurdling, hair-raising story of a country (guess which one?) that's up to its eyeballs in credit-card debt.
  5. 80
    A riveting, amusing, enlightening and emotionally affecting movie by a guy you've never heard of, about -- wait for it -- the consumer debt crisis.
  6. 80
    Scurlock does well to counter the more dire aspects of the film with a razor-sharp sense of humor.
  7. Scurlock's filmmaking style leans more heavily on woebegone personal testimony than facts and figures, but politicians willing to go up against the credit industry's lobbyists would be well advised to take a look.
  8. 75
    Maxed Out sacrifices depth for breadth and like a lot of low-budget documentaries, it's done no favors by its grimy, no-fi aesthetic. But the film's scattered ruminations on credit card mania add up to a powerful indictment of a culture of mindless consumption spinning out of control.
  9. Maxed Out, while occasionally muddled in its financial details, presents a more-accurate-than-not vision of a nation that is starting to look like a candidate for rehab, on both an individual and a national level, for its addiction to debt.
  10. 70
    At a time when our debt as individuals and as a nation is at an all-time high, Maxed Out offers a much needed look at this escalating dilemma.
  11. 70
    Tends to let his consumers off the hook--you'd hardly guess that any of these people are responsible for their own financial woes.
  12. Like Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) before him, Scurlock sets his sights on vast money-motivated conspiracies and doesn't rest until he finds them.
  13. Scurlock barely acknowledges the logical reality of any credit card transaction: If you choose to buy something, you will have to pay for it eventually.
  14. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    James Scurlock's documentary horror show has a critical message to impart -- your credit cards are out to kill you -- and a naive, ham - handed way of imparting it.
  15. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Scurlock's documentary serves up cautionary tales of epic abuse, though the overall tone is faux cheerful and sometimes genuinely entertaining.
  16. Although Maxed Out would like to be this year’s "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," it doesn’t measure up. "Enron" was a stronger film because its focus was specific, the personalities under its microscope were outsize, and its story had a beginning, middle and end. Maxed Out, which has no narrator, gathers facts, opinions and impressions and tosses them into a blender. And its story is still unfinished.
  17. While the documentary does a credible job of pointing out the magnitude of the problem, it skirts the issue of what can be done about it and by whom.
  18. 30
    A slapdash piece of work totally indebted to second-hand rhetorical strategies.
  19. 25
    All the film provides is this bulletin: Lefties are angry about the things Lefties are angry about, chiefly corporate profits.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 7 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 1 out of 3
  1. SteveS.
    Jul 18, 2007
    Earth to the American public - if you keep on electing survival-of-the-fittest Republicans, don't be surprised when large swaths of your Earth to the American public - if you keep on electing survival-of-the-fittest Republicans, don't be surprised when large swaths of your society turn Darwinian without prior notice. Yes, it would be really nice if everybody lived within their means; but as the movie makes clear, the credit card companies are now actively seducing the poorest credit risks, because their highest profits come from soaking marginal customers with late fees. Such dubious and predatory strategies have addicted our economy to the self-delusions of American consumers. If people did start being more responsible with their credit cards, it would be the end of our standard of living. Nor is the US government any more prepared to face reality than the American people are. It just has the power to raise the ceiling on its debt, a luxury private citizens lack. The movie is smart, ironic and funny. You come away from it with the strong intuition that the more credit card applications you get in the mail, the more insulted you should feel, because the modern lender strategy is to rope in as many losers as possible. It would also have been fitting to end it with the same portentious message Criswell intoned at the finale of Plan 9 From Outer Space - "God help us in the future!" Full Review »
  2. BrettS
    Jun 17, 2007
    Too biased of a documentary to deserve a good score. It only shows half of the problem, that lenders need to tighten lending standards. The Too biased of a documentary to deserve a good score. It only shows half of the problem, that lenders need to tighten lending standards. The problem that Americans want to buy whatever they want whenever they want, but when it comes time to pay what they owe they don't want to is only briefly skirted. NY Post reviewer says it best: The film takes care to hide almost everything its overspenders bought, but toward the end a weeping woman takes us through the sanctum where, until indebtedness suddenly struck, she once kept her 500 souvenir plates. Hiding half of the problem does not a good documentary make. Full Review »
  3. JackD.
    Mar 15, 2007
    Very, very insightful, revealing documentary about the credit industry in the US. A must see for anyone.