Where to invade next

C- Comedy, documentary, mockumentary

Written and directed by Michael Moore

The press material for Where to Invade Next insists on calling Michael Moore’s latest agitprop movie a comedy, and not a documentary. This is odd because, although it’s for the most part non-fiction, it’s not all that funny.

It has its comic moments. A few bits, including the quick shot of a cellphone-tossing contest, pulled a belly laugh out of me. But it’s nowhere near as funny as Moore’s better documentaries.

The opening certainly counts as fiction. The Joint Chiefs of Staff call Moore to Washington for his advice. The USA hasn’t won a war since World War II, and they want to know why. To put it another way, they want a country to invade.

That setup suggests a movie about the military-industrial complex, but that’s not what’s on Moore’s mind this time around (although it’s a worthy subject for his talent). The places he visits are, with one exception, the sort of countries we don’t go to war with–wealthy democracies populated primarily by white people. Moore wants to “invade” them to bring home their good ideas, such as free education, jailing bankers, decriminalizing drugs, and giving workers long vacations.

In other words, it’s about how backward the USA is compared to other wealthy democracies

Let me be clear: I am in complete agreement with Moore on these issues. And so will be 99.9 percent of the people who will see Where to Invade Next. But that’s always been the major problem with Moore’s movies–they’re seen almost entirely by people who already agree with him.

So what’s this movie’s function? Can it provide statistics you can use to argue with your Tea Party cousin? Maybe, but an Internet search will get those stats faster, and in a form that you can copy and paste.

Or is it there to entertain the faithful and rouse them to fix our country. That’s worthwhile, but as I said, the movie is not all that entertaining. Moore’s shtick feels tired 27 years after Roger and Me, and the nearly two-hour runtime (which felt padded) didn’t help.

As much as I agree with Moore’s arguments, I couldn’t help but be bothered by their one-sidedness. The fact that he has to go to Italy to find long vacations, France to find public schools that feed healthy, gourmet food, and Norway to find humane prisons suggests that no one country has all the answers. And Moore doesn’t even consider these countries’ problems. I’ve read about severe racism and xenophobia in western Europe. And when I saw those French children all being served the same gourmet meal, I didn’t see any exceptions for those who keep halal, kosher, or vegan–or simply those who have allergies.

Yes, I found the film sporadically entertaining, and it’s always pleasing to have your own controversial opinions validated. But even for his fans (and I used to be one), Michael Moore has become tiring.