Where to Invade Next (Tom Quinn/Jason Janego/Tim League, R)

There’s enough leakage in his arguments and portrayal that the film will be an easy target for those who don’t agree with it.

Where to Invade Next

I’ve been a fan of Michael Moore since Roger & Me (though, in fairness, I didn’t see that film for the first time until about ten years after it was released…), and while in general it can be assumed that I’ll probably like his movies, it’s not without reservation. As a filmmaker, he’s awfully one-note, and his ability as a satirist is sometimes at odds with his sometimes lack of ability as a director. Further, his movies since 2002’s Bowling for Columbine have felt somewhat samey—they all have bloated 2ish-hour runtimes, they all feel like retreads of things he’s already covered, and, while not wrong in doing so, they’ve gotten really exceptionally conspicuous in their trying to prioritize the content current political debate.

In this regard, Moore’s new film, Where to Invade Next, fits in with what I’ve come to expect of him lately. He spends the film “invading” mostly European countries, with the premise being that he’s going to steal all of their best ideas and implant them in America. Better worker benefits are high on his list, but also better educational systems, prison reform, and that kind of thing. The usual suspects.

Mr. Moore spoke in London in 2003, which event I attended, and then I was at the Cannes Film Festival when his Fahrenheit 9/11 historically won the Palme d’Or in 2004 (it was the first documentary ever to do so), and as such I feel qualified in attesting that, as of ten years ago, at least, he is perhaps better loved in Europe than he is in America. All the same, it sometimes borders on cringeworthy to see Moore represent the typical American while trekking across Europe, for fear that he might be giving European citizens the wrong idea. For example, he acts puzzled when he finds out, say, how healthy and delicious-looking lunches served in French grade schools (or at least the French school he goes to) are, and then makes a big show of asking the French children if they like Coca-Cola (and, in the process, says the full “Coca-Cola” about a hundred times over the course of two minutes), and also shows them pictures of what American school lunches typically look like. There’s a fine line between satirizing the typical American and full-on propagating their mentality, and Moore’s walking a little too close to that line at some points in this film.

One also might notice that Where to Invade Next is being released during the height of election season, much like what he did with Fahrenheit 9/11. Curiously, at one point Where to Invade looks at Iceland’s recent economic recovery and pegs it to their female leadership in the government. Sounds like he’s stumping for Hillary, right? Apparently not, as he recently publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders (not surprising, as Sanders is a lot closer to Moore’s political views). And that’s about the long and short of Where to Invade Next—it’s entertaining enough and not likely to alienate those who are preexisting Moore fans, but there’s enough leakage in his arguments and portrayal that the film will be an easy target for those who don’t agree with it. | Pete Timmermann

 

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