Starring: Michael Moore
Director: Michael Moore
Michael Moore is quickly becoming one of those middle class mothers who sponsor a starving child in the Sudan then reminds you about it every single time you see them. The title of his new feature length documentary Where to Invade Next is a tediously goofy misdirection on his part. The expected continued dissection of Dub’yer and his friends at Bell helicopters is not the subject of Moore’s latest investigative journalism outing after all. It turns out that he has set out on a trip to Europe to pick the best bits to take back to the USA. When Moore ‘invades’ a country, he cherry picks the best it has to offer to help educate his homeland; teaching the holocaust to school children in Germany, women’s rights in Iceland, Norwegian criminal rehabilitation, the innovative drug laws in Portugal.
Great documentary writers can be temptingly impassive (Louis Theroux) or overtly aggressive (Oliver Stone) but all need to challenge. That is to challenge both the audience’s preconceptions and the antagonists of their stories. Here, Moore seems happy to google ‘Best bits of Europe’ and set off to kiss a few smiling president’s behinds. Not once does he take a single person to task over anything, which is surprising given his unbridled joy at putting Charlton Heston to the sword in Bowling for Columbine. This lack of confrontation quickly dissolves this two hour outing of international back-slapping into a magazine style chore.
The key glitch with Moore’s point here is that he takes each of these advantages in isolation. He excuses this by briefly declaring that he is there to ‘pick the flowers, not the weeds’. The twenty-hour school week in Finland would not be possible without state driven affordable childcare. Italian workers have lots of holidays yes, but business is crippled by the obscenely powerful unions and their economy has now collapsed. France have wonderful school lunches, but you cannot legally have a vegetarian meal there. This is not to say that the USA could not learn from these examples, yet to take each in isolation quickly becomes nonsensical and maddening.
Due to the nature of Moore skipping around the world and changing theme at regular intervals, no single personal story is given enough time to develop. All feature length documentaries need that personal thread, something which Moore himself excelled at with Bowling for Columbine. In fact, that’s the main differentiator between a TV documentary and one on cinematic release; feature docs need a tangible plot, characters to love or hate, surprises and twists. Where to Invade Next has none of these and rapidly becomes a series of tiring anecdotes and statistics.
Where to Invade Next is a slackly researched, principally meaningless project by Moore and never confronts nor exposes any revelations worthy of a feature length release. It feels like something Gloria Hunniford would present on ITV4 at midday on a Tuesday. Some interesting discussion points are raised but in the way an anecdote is mentioned over breakfast about something you read in a magazine in the doctors waiting room.
Did you know Slovenia has free university education, even for foreign students? More eggs, love?
4 / 10