- on Friday, 22 January 2016 15:10
- by Frank Wilkins
With giddy ambition and a newfound optimism in his sails, the new Michael Moore – a more laid-back version of his angry, hot-button, leftist self – brings us the misleadingly titled Where to Invade Next, his first film in six years, and his latest to skewer the American ethos.
Like his previous films which took on such heady topics as gun control (Bowling for Columbine), the Iraq War (Fahrenheit 9/11), the healthcare industry (Sicko), and the global financial crisis (Capitalism: A Love Story), Where to Invade Next sticks to the Moore dogma and uses humor, interviews, infographics, and his own puckish wit to get his points across.
But what seems to be missing this time around is the righteous troublemaker outrage and much of the caustic sarcasm and pointed irony that have marked his previous efforts. And Where to Invade Next is a better film because of it.
Don’t get me wrong though, it still feels as if he’s preaching to the choir. And with his acid-tinged name attached to the project, virtually no one who disagrees with his past points of view will ever feel compelled to stretch their own preconceived judgment and watch this film, much less hear what he has to say.
Leave it to Moore to find inspiration from the thought of making a film about America that doesn’t contain a single frame that was shot in America. But that’s what he does as he and his crew invade several cherry-picked European countries – plus Tunisia – with his trademarked geniality and an American flag insolently draped over his shoulder. But instead of intent to invade, his mission is to steal from other countries cultural and social ideas that he deems worth emulating to bring them back to America.
Among his stops are Finland to explore why its educational system is far superior to ours, Italy to learn about their generous employment benefits which, he points out, lead to longer life expectancies, and France where public school meals are prepared by staff chefs and served in four courses on fine china rather than slopped on a plastic tray as is the case in our country.
Other segments include a visit to Norway’s penitentiary system that concentrates on rehabilitation rather than revenge, and a stop in the islamic country of Tunisia that has managed to constitutionally mandate both equal rights and free access to reproductive services for women.
An examination of Iceland’s economic turnaround following the global economic crisis in 2008 is particularly fascinating as it highlights some fairly significant changes the government made to corporate structure and commercial practices that are undoubtedly controversial, yet demonstrate a shocking result.
Though Moore has dropped much of his abrasive rhetoric and polarizing favoritism, there are still glaring examples that he conveniently leaves by the wayside.
For instance, Italy’s high unemployment rate and the economic struggles of Spain and Greece conveniently get the short shrift while hot-button topics that don’t particularly mesh well with his message, such as immigration and religious extremism, are left by the wayside.
Rather than excoriate a person, ideal, or facet of American policy, as has been his modus operandi in the past, Moore takes the calmer, gentler approach with Invade and shows us bits and pieces of policies and laws that are working in other countries and that he believes might work here in America.
The pervasive optimism in Where to Invade Next hails to a new Michael Moore – one more readily digested and certainly less divisive. He purposefully points out at the beginning of the film that he wants to pick the flowers, not the weeds which hints that he’s still not a totally impartial filmmaker.
But it does provide some much needed clarity and approachability to his goal of making people believe in their dreams of a better America and that our way of doing things may not always be the best.
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the guy truly loves his country and thinks we can make it better. His Where to Invade Next plays as an enjoyable and more lighthearted think-piece of an attainable utopian society. He’s always encouraged us to think, but perhaps now with his less caustic approach, more will be encouraged to think with him. Perhaps, dare I say, even some of those on the right.
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violent images, drug use and brief graphic nudity
Runtime: 110 mins
Director: Michael Moore
Writer: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore, Krista Kiuru, Tim Walker
Genre: Documentary | Comedy
Tagline: Michael Moore's most dangerous comedy
Memorable Movie Quote: "I want to pick the flowers, not the weeds."
Distributor: Dog Eat Dog Films
Official Site: http://wheretoinvadenext.com/
Release Date: February 12, 2016 (limited)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: The film, in the style of a travelogue, has Moore spending time in countries such as Finland, Italy and France where he experiences those countries' alternative methods of dealing with social and economic ills experienced in the United States.
No details available.