True Crime Documentary Bad Vegan Review, A Too Long Series About A Gaslighting Fat Dude

In what I believed to be the last hours before Netflix password sharing ended, although I’m not even quite sure about that, I decided to give Bad Vegan a try. I’ve been avoiding it for a while without really knowing much about the story.

We begin with a pretty intriguing case. A restaurant owner who only sells raw foods is somehow untangled in a crime of fraud. The documentary kind of shows the conclusion from the beginning, assuming the audience is familiar with the story already. I wasn’t. This was an early poor choice.

Bad Vegan didn’t get much better. In fact, it’s secretly a way too long documentary all about a gaslighting fat dude.

The worst hamburger you could make is better than Bad Vegan

Calling this documentary Bad Vegan isn’t the worst crime of all. It has as much to do with the vegan, Sarma Melngailis, as it does another culprit in this true crime documentary, Anthony Strangis. Strangis, so we’re clear, is the gaslighting fat dude.

This documentary had a few bits that reminded me of Stolen Youth, the one about the sex cult that started at Sarah Lawrence. There was also a bit of Abducted in Plain Sight where a pedophile kidnaps a girl and insists they’re both aliens. Bad Vegan has a little bit of that gaslighting alien element in there.

Across four very long episodes, we see how Anthony, who originally went by the name Shane Fox, completely takes over Sarma’s life. There are some questions about how much Sarma was actually in control along the way. Could such an intelligent woman actually fall for a guy who on the first date was fatter than his social media profile picture? After she learns that his real name is Anthony and he has a prison record, one would think she’d run away.

But enough about the specifics in this story. Bad Vegan is more bad than vegan. Why is it?

What could have made Bad Vegan better

I know a documentary is dragging when each episode includes at least a couple moments of checking how much longer we have left to go. I did this in all four of the episodes. It was way too much setup with such a weak payoff. The producers could have easily knocked this out in one movie. I would have even accepted three parts. Four was far too much for a repetitive story.

Bad Vegan suffers from a bit of “seen it before.” Like I said, it has elements of Stolen Youth and Abducted in Plain Sight. This is a story of a fraud and not a particularly interesting one. The people interviewed aren’t all that quirky. We don’t hear from Anthony at all. This is an account coming mostly from Sarma who doesn’t exactly seem like a helpless victim.

Bad Vegan failed the most by not offering enough answers as to who Anthony was before all of this. Even an interview with an ex-wife doesn’t provide much insight. He’s easily the most interesting character, as most villains are, in this documentary. Not knowing much about him, like how he had Alec Baldwin talking to him so regularly on Twitter before he met Sarma, remains unanswered.

Speaking of Alec Baldwin, his presence in the beginning of this documentary is huge and adds a bit of fun-after-the-fact element. Who knew he’d be featured so heavily in a true crime documentary before shooting someone to death? Near the same breaths where we see Baldwin, Bad Vegan is further outdating itself quickly with talk of how Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen visited Sarma’s restaurant. Whoops!

The main part of the whole Bad Vegan story is Anthony’s manipulative ways right from the beginning and how he screwed over a lot of people who could see he wasn’t a very good guy. This documentary suffers most from lasting way too long. And I’m not one to complain about documentaries lasting too long. The Staircase is one of my favorites and that’s a marathon.

Overall Score: 3 out of 10

Bad Vegan was well-made but way in over its head. It showed up to a job interview and answered the first question with “When do I start?” Is it possible for a documentary to be cocky?

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