Movie Review: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox
Is truth stranger than fiction? Have you ever used Dr. Bronner's soap and wondered how this tingly product has so many uses? In Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox, director Sara Lamm follows around the Bonner family in their quest to sell soap and unite everyone under one plan (the Moral ABCs), listed on the side of every bottle, along with a variety of other quotes and directives. Dr. E.H. Bronner's life is the stuff that movies are made of, which is probably why someone decided to make a movie about a family of soapmakers, which does not exactly sound like the stuff of blockbuster movies.His tactics (and personality) might seem kind of wacky, but his intentions are simple — to offer people a good product on a human level. This movie is entertaining but also full of examples of one company that spent the last 40 years working to get their message of uniting everyone under one plan of taking care of each other on spaceship earth. The soap works on your body, on your dishes, on your car, even on your dog. The movie also explains ingredients in the soap and the method behind the madness - No petroleum, fair wages, and they offer one on one time with customers. The movie is full of interviews with people all across America who are new to the soap and who have been using it since the 1960s.
Yet, there is more to this story besides just making soap. Dr. Bronner himself has an interesting history of escaping from Nazis, escaping from a mental institution where he had shock-therapy, and continuing to promote his product while being completely blind towards the end of his life. Dr. Bronner also frequently called the FBI to rail against communism, and has a lengthy file, which also contains remarks that he has a considerable amount of scientific knowledge.
The story becomes even more interesting as the children and grandchildren are interviewed. Ralph, one son, was admittedly abandoned at a young age as his father traveled the country, and lived in 15 different foster homes growing up. Today Ralph is quite possibly the biggest proponent of the soap and his father. Ralph even puts his home phone number on all materials and answers the calls directly and continues to travel the country today passing out soap and hugs.
Read the synopsis and words like Nazis, insane asylum and magic soap show jump out at you. The director herself even says "its sad and funny and weird and even sometimes awkward ". Awkward it does become towards the end of the movie when it becomes hard to follow the story thread but it ends nicely showing how the current Bronner's are continuing the legacy of Dr. Bronner. The company continues to use socially-conscious practices like developing and using the first 100% post-consumer recycled bottles and capping the owner's salaries at no higher than 5 times what the lowest paid, fully vested workers make.
This movie is quirky and fascinating and by the end you don't find the family strange, but rather endearing and it makes you want to purchase a bottle. While their practices (and history) might not be conventional, you find yourself rooting for this family to succeed.
Dr. Bronner's is also the maker of Sun Dog Body Care products and ALPSNACK Organic snack bars.