Opening Feb 25, 2016
Directed by: Michael Moore
Writing credits: Michael Moore
Principle actors: Documentary
In this documentary director Michael Moore travels to three continents armed with just a United States flag and curiosity. He invades several countries intending to take some of their good practices to the U.S. as his booty. Interspersed among all the shock about kids that enjoy eating healthy foods (France) and awe that education without homework can result in smart students (Finland), are some highlights of what Moore sees as injustices and wrongs within his own American borders. For instance, some appalling video reveals how the U.S. treats certain inmates. By contrast, Norway literally houses serious criminals where they can live with dignity. In France, kids were horrified to see what American students eat for lunch and even refused to drink cola. Moore presents many marvelous ideas where the advantages are a bit sugar-coated but any real disadvantages are ignored. More like a good beach book than The Economic Review, but overall a pleasant trip worth taking. ( )
Michael Moore is on a mission. He travels to a number of different countries to invade them, but instead of stealing riches or natural resources, he takes their great social ideas so that maybe America can learn a thing or two. However, along the way he learns that these ideas are not as foreign to America as we think they are.
Where to Invade Next is a documentary that fails to make a strong point. It’s alright I suppose, but both the topic and the execution are so simplistic, so lacking in all depth, that the end result has little worth. The idea from the get-go is typical of the over-the-top director Michael Moore: America invades countries all the time, so let’s do a comical documentary where we invade for ideas instead of resources. This is typical of Moore, to oversimplify a huge, multidimensional issue to the point of being patronizing. Of course, America is the big bad guy for invading the world, but when the countries he later “invades” are basking in their riches primarily due to their colonial past his point become a bit ludicrous.
Although the aspects of society he picks from the countries he visits are all great—who wouldn’t want free education, great school lunches, more pay, more benefits, and more vacation—Moore’s overgeneralizations lead to a loss of credibility. He talks about how great Germany’s middle class is and then picks as his example the workers at Faber Castell, one of the last family-owned and operated mid-level companies left in the country, and ignores the growing wealth inequality and decline of the middle class that country is facing. Or he interviews Icelandic women on their gender equality and ignores the blatantly dated gender politics that comes out of their mouths (really? Women are more nurturing and peaceful?) Even when he talks about the U.S. he gets things wrong, such as when he mentions how three years ago in the US gay marriage was outlawed in every state. This is blatant falsehood considering it was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004. The way he tends to gloss over the truth or just say blatant inaccuracies to make a stronger point results in a film of little value and integrity.
Moore does poignantly mention near the beginning of the film that his job is to “pick the flowers, not the weeds,” stressing that he is searching for the good in the world, not the bad. This is a nice point, but one he disregards when instead of truly finding the good he paints a fairytale instead. Not only is he cherry picking, but he is misrepresenting reality and it undermines his points. Perhaps with a more subtle and creative director this concept could have been more successful, but unfortunately Moore’s ham-fisted approach fails to make the impact he hoped for.