Mistitled and meandering, it is Michael Moore’s worst film, his weakest whack at America: What Went Wrong?
“Where to Invade Next”? Where to begin?
Start with the premise. Leftist gadfly Moore lectures the Joint Chiefs of Staff (not in person) for America’s decades of failed military adventures, and will show us and them how it should be done.
“No more using drones as wedding invitations.”
He’ll put on his olive drab jacket, grab a flag, and invade countries that America should be stealing ideas from. He’ll interview Icelanders, Finns, Slovenians, Italians, French, German, Norwegians, Portuguese and Tunisians, find out how their education systems, school lunches, workers’ rights, prison systems and and political systems are better than those of the United States.
And he’ll claim them as ours, planting the flag as he makes his mission creep.
You can probably see flaws in that premise just from the listed nations –tiny, and with the exception of Tunisia, European. Monocultures with small populations. The interview subjects (even in Tunisia) make this his whitest film since “Bowling for Columbine.”
And the cherry picking. Visiting a Ducati motorcycle or high fashion factory to learn about “the Italian way”? Seriously? Ever driven an Italian car? Or tried to keep one running? Are they a model to emulate?
Portugal is Greece in waiting. Iceland has a population the size of Tampa. Tunisia is tiny and gutsy and launched The Arab Spring — thanks to a guy who set himself on fire. Not something Americans do.
The surface ideas here may be sound. Germany mandates that half the members of any company’s board of directors be factory workers, making stronger unions and less chance of a rapacious American “Winner Take All” economy. Finland scrapped traditional school methods for a no homework/no standardized test curriculum that has moved them to the top of the world’s “smartest student” charts. France and Italy tax their people to pay for generous social welfare — and divine school lunches — and everybody benefits, not just those country’s “one percent.”
Portugal legalizes all drugs and empties its prisons, Norway treats its prisoners with humor and humanity and an emphasis on rehabilitation — even the mass murderers. There is no “punishment” to it other that idyllic, comfy isolation.
But the movie plays as a diffuse, smirking rant, allowing us to envy Italians whose many weeks of paid vacation allow them to travel to Monte Carlo, Miami and Nairobi or marvel at those smart, friendly Nordic Finns and Norwegians.
Moore’s mission creep sets in when he takes a shot at getting back in Hillary Clinton’s good graces, noting how Iceland was the first country to elect a female president, how it’s safest bank is run by women and how the country was the only one to send misbehaving bankers to prison after the global financial collapse. Moore famously ditched Hillary for Obama in 2008, and promised reporters (including this one) to “make it up to her.”
The implication is clear. Part of America’s problem can be traced to testosterone. America is lagging in the equal rights/equal presidency department. And there’s just one woman of note running for president this time around.
Moore also visits the Berlin Wall, to remind us that in an age of seemingly intractable problems and unbroken American gridlock that change, when it happens, comes in a flash. And these “great ideas?” They are, to a one, American in origin, ideas the country got away from as it grew too fast and let profiteers take too much control of education, culture and its politics.
None of these quibbles would be worth debating as merits or demerits in a movie were it not for the fact that Moore’s latest film isn’t funny. Archival footage of Texas tinhorn Rick Perry’s insistence that “abstinence” in sex education works, despite being given overwhelming evidence that it is failing in Texas, is almost the lone laugh in this too-long tirade.
Moore needed to stay on message, plan his trip to be more inclusive and maybe hire fresher writers to polish his political one-liners and zingers.
Wherever he decides to “Invade Next,” the invasion will be pointless if the zing is gone.
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violent images, drug use and brief graphic nudity
Cast: Michael Moore, Krista Kiuru, Vidgis Finnbogadottir
Credits: Written and directed by Michael Moore. An IMG release.
Running time: 1:50