For what it’s worth, the search doesn’t last long. One of the first images in this documentary is of a guy biting into a ten-inch tenderloin covered with onions and other condiments. The bun is almost an afterthought. It covers less than fifty percent of the total pork area and is basically there to act as a handle. Apparently the specialty pork sandwich isn’t very hard to come by in Indiana, even if it is a rarity in other parts of the country. Rufe’s documentary premise is a simple celebration of the local fast-food staple and the simple folk who have perfected it over the years in laboratories with names like Mr. Dave’s and Mug ‘n’ Bun.
Tenderloin sandwich fans who have left the state (no doubt to the relief of their heart and arteries) find themselves in dire despair and sometimes make return visits to Indiana just to stock up on the frozen version, or at least get a quick fix. They describe their feelings for the sandwich as a real addiction. If it’s true that deep-fried breaded pork acts on the body like nicotine or heroine, then it’s easy to see why people are being cut out of their homes in the Midwest and hoisted into ambulances with heavy equipment.
In any case, Jensen Rufe knows the secret of low budget, short documentary filmmaking. Choose a simple, accessible subject, and keep your examination modest. You can’t get more modest than telling the story of a regional fast food item, especially one that hasn’t made the news by going bad and killing children. If anything, the material is a little too thin. There isn’t a whole lot to tell about the sandwiches. There’s no special secret about how it’s made; no intrigue or controversy, not even a good argument among the local residents as to who makes the best one.
I’ll admit that the film held my attention, but only in the way that Pizza Hut does — by waving food in front of me. I think a strict vegetarian would just walk away.
The film does take an only slightly subversive turn along these lines in the final scene, when one of the fast food cooks makes the statement “If you do a good job at whatever you do, you’ll be rewarded”. Cut to a pack of eager, curious pigs bustling around a pen. Some reward for these high achievers!