Michael Moore has made a career out of antagonizing conservatives and corporations, a like. From his debut documentary Roger & Me to his seminal Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine and its follow-up Fahrenheit 9/11, the pudgy filmmaker filmed himself fighting for the poor and the abused. That has always been part of the fun of Moore’s films, watching some shlub in a Tiger’s cap confront corrupt corporate types in thousand dollar suits and, usually, win. Yes, he is more liberal than the bastard child of Barbara Streisand and Sean Penn but it’s this the basic underdog story that draws us in.
Now, take away the underdog part of the story and what do you get? Where to Invade Next. A muddled travelogue showcasing Michael Moore travelling around the world to collect strategies to fix the United States. He doesn’t confront any CEO’s that inadvertently bankrupted a small Michigan town or super-mega-chain stores that sold ammunition that was used to murder a dozen students in a sleepy Colorado high school. No, he sips wine in Italy and shares lunch with French grade school students. He does, also, meet with community and business leaders, not to provoke them or bully them in to doing his bidding but to contrast their utopian work and living conditions to the harsh realities of that in America.
The majority of facts and stories presented by the portly provocateur is stuff that the a thinking American probably already knows: Italians get an insane amount of paid time off, Finland has the best education system, and French school lunches are five star meals, for example. Moore admits, right at the beginning, that he doesn’t care about any of the flaws of these countries. He just wants to show the one thing that each country does right. Where to Invade Next showcases a seemingly lighter and breezier Michael Moore.
Now, that would be excusable if Michael Moore did what he does best and came back to the good ol’ U.S. of A. and tried to get Congressmen or CEOs to implement any of the tools he’s picking up abroad. That’s what makes a Michael Moore film. Don’t just tell us that Portugal legalized all drugs and that the Norwegian prison system is a slightly better than staying at a Red Roof Inn while lecturing us about how the United States government created harsher drug penalties in the sixties in order to control the rising African-American population that now produce Victoria’s Secret underwear for twenty cents an hour in prison. Do something to try and fix it.
Perhaps, I am being too harsh. He is only one man, after all. But he’s Michael freakin’ Moore and spending two hours watching him travel around the world to countries that I would love to visit but can’t because, unlike the students at Slovenia’s universities, I have crippling college debt.
Verdict: 2 out of 5
The only thing Michael Moore is going to achieve with Where to Invade Next is giving his conservative critics more ammunition against him while giving his liberal supporters nothing to support him with. Worst of all, he fails to give filmgoers a reason to care. The old underdog from Roger & Me is simply just lecturing from the lap of luxury.