Movie review: Where to Invade Next
Michael Moore plays chatty tour guide as he treks through Europe to discover healthy school lunches, free college tuition and – gasp! – women in power!
Where to Invade Next
Starring: Michael Moore
Directed by: Michael Moore
Running time: 119 minutes
By Katherine Monk
The only real problem with Micheal Moore movies is Michael Moore. You know what I mean.
His presence defines every single movie he makes, and squashes any argument like a pillow beneath his big American cheeks.
It comes with a whiff of silent arrogance. But also some charm. There’s a “gee-shucks” earnestness to his gonzo inquisitions, whether he’s grilling some hapless spokesperson for a car company, sticking his nose into the gun debate or wading into Flint’s water problem.
He can’t help it. He’s like a big kid who likes to ask questions, and even if a lot of those questions sound a little remedial, he’s affecting some version of Joe Average that’s probably closer to truth than anyone cares to imagine.
Where to Invade Next, judging by the title, suggests Michael Moore’s latest target is American foreign policy and its arguably Imperialist agenda. But it’s not. It’s not that at all. Where to Invade Next is like going to Europe and getting stuck on the bus with some really chatty idiot.
Moore’s premise is that he’s invading other countries to steal good ideas and take them to America. He plunders school lunch programs from France, prison systems from Scandinavia, female politicians from Iceland.
Playing the perpetually stunned visitor, Moore is blown away when he visits a motorcycle factory in Italy and realizes they reward their employees with a fair wage and two months of paid holidays. Why? He asks. How? HIs subjects always seem to chuckle, and offer some version of: “Because it’s the right thing to do. Duh.”
You can’t argue with them. Not that you want to, but Moore doesn’t leave much room on the couch for too many different points of view. He presents bits and pieces of different social maps to assemble his own geography of truth.
When he came to Canada, he concluded most Canadians don’t lock their doors.
His generalizations are broad-sweeping and simplistic because he’s always trying to prove a point about his own country on the back of another. Look at this folks: French kids eat a proper meal at school and learn about nutrition while American kids are already obese and predisposed to diabetes as a result of their unhealthy cafeteria fare.
It’s the same trick desperate couples use: Hang out with another pair and point out how your own partner could improve. “See! Jim does the laundry in his house!”
It feels passive-aggressive and childish, but again, that’s Michael Moore in a nutshell. You have to suffer through the false humility, the self-conscious attempts at tongue-in-cheek humour and the threat of bad gaffes at every turn.
At one point, he ends up in Ljubljana, Slovenia to tout the beauty of a free college education. He begins with his warm and fuzzy Saturday morning tone, explaining where Slovenia is, and why it’s not to be confused with Slovakia — the other half of the Czech Republic. Slovenia is a different country, a part of the former Yugoslavia, but Moore — even after explaining the difference — gets confused. Sadly, he gets it wrong in the company of the Slovenian president and makes no apology.
Maybe he thought we wouldn’t notice, because he’s clearly playing to the lowest-common denominator — another flaw that’s hard to get over because he treats the viewer like a two-year-old, giving us grammar school lessons in social justice.
It’s a little insulting, but maybe that’s how you have to approach radical ideas such as female presidents, equal pay and human dignity within the penal system. These ‘hot button’ topics have a habit of inflaming the common folk because preachers and politicians have spent billions spreading fear of change and progress.
Yet, there’s Michael Moore sitting with powerful females running banks, countries, big corporations — and he emerges with his liver, eyeballs and genitals intact. Turns out women in power are not witches, they’re just human beings who care about continuity and have a natural tendency to empathize with others.
Moore’s film makes a very compelling case for having more women in powerful positions, just as it makes a strong case for better policing, humane prisons and fair wages.
But for all the good he’s trying to import from elsewhere, it’s landing in a great big box emblazoned with the Michael Moore brand, which immediately makes his message unpalatable to half the American population — particularly the half he is desperate to proselytize.
And so, it’s another sermon directed at the choir of social liberals who will hum along and nod at the appropriate moments, happy to have their world view reaffirmed by the loud guy who speaks American.
THE EX-PRESS, February 27, 2016