“Where to Invade Next” — new Michael Moore documentary — One Movie a Day Review

We look at globalization today as a reality. It is not a “wave”, a “phase” nor a “trend”, but a reality we must learn how to live with. It is widely written about and most people understand it under a positive light, in which it facilitates access to information and to the exchange of knowledge. Imperialism, on the other hand, still carries its — rightly so — negative energy, although one is very likely to find persons who equate certain elements of today’s globalized world to those of imperialism. To extend a country’s power and influence in the world was closely attached to colonization and military means, with the United States still representing perhaps the largest example of imperialism in today’s world.

In his new documentary, “Where to Invade Next”, Michael Moore proposes a different type of “invasion”. Convinced that wars only create more wars, he comes up with this one-man army composed of none other than himself, that goes from “target to target”, country to country, observing and absorbing ideas that he believe the US, and the world as a whole, could benefit from. We are faced with a lighter, less investigative but most definitely more optimistic version of the movie-maker. This is perhaps his funniest movie in many years, which is not to say it ignores gut-wrenching and emotional moments (like the German school kid looking at the suitcase being filled or scenes of abuse faced by prisoners in US facilities).

We see him go to Portugal to analyze the country’s drug policy. We explore Italy’s nearly eight weeks of paid vacation and relaxed approach to wealth. In France, topics range from sex education classes to nutritious and educational school lunches that cost less than the average US school meal. Slovenia offers tuition-free Universities, while Finland’s school system puts the student’s well-being and happiness — not results — in the center of it all. Norway’s rehabilitation-driven criminal system and Iceland’s criminal prosecution of bankers, allied to female-parity in business, are explored. We visit Tunisia and Germany, and another plethora of topics and palpable realities are explored. How the topics are chosen seems unclear — did he randomly pick all of the things he believes would be “great to have”?

Michael Moore does not propose the impossible. In fact, he knows that the countries he chose are not problem-free, and yet praises the social choices that were made to protect the society and promote the collective well-being of as many citizens as possible. He briefly compares the fiscal policies of the US and that of European nations to show that, when it comes to taxation, the differences are not that vast: but what the population gets in return certainly is.

While Moore continues to break the myth of the “perfect nation” he so heavily explored in his previous documentaries, it does not come with “blind despise” for his country. He is keen to show that many of the ideas that supported the implementation of the model policies in the different countries he visited are to be found in US society, and perhaps his movie is a love-letter to it, a call for action from a man who certainly seems to have become soft-hearted as years went by.

While slightly longer than needed, the documentary is aided by interesting public figures — politicians, policy-makers, public servants — he interviews along the way. They add freshness and different views of the world, a way to look outwards rather than inwards like it is so typical of his previous movies. The major problem is, perhaps, that the audience who needs to see this movie the most, won’t get anywhere near it.

8/10

Favorite Quote: “Really. What’s the point of being richer?” (when an Italian company CEO woman is presented with the idea that if they cut workers’ benefits they can quickly have more profit.)

Director: Michael Moore (also known for the great “Bowling for Columbine” and “Roger & Me”)

More reviews available here.