It goes without saying that Michael Moore’s movies – in which he’s always a central character – carry the baggage of his politics. Where to Invade Next is a Michael Moore movie, in every sense. There he is, with his loose-fitting jeans, marshmallowy sneakers and liberal opinions. Let the booing begin.
Or don’t. Moore’s latest movie is funny and touching, and it has a lot to say about what we settle for as Americans citizens, and how much better our lives might be if we raised some hell.
To make this point, Moore employs a gimmick, facetiously vowing to invade a bunch of countries and loot their great ideas to bring to the States. The shtick doesn’t entirely hold up, even if Moore, outfitted in an Army-green jacket and camouflage baseball cap, insists on “planting” an American flag on the floor of the Portuguese health minister’s office.
Moore warms up the audience with some laugh-out-loud moments. “Have you ever noticed that Italians all look like they just had sex?” he asks, as the screen shows us several beautiful, happy couples. In Italy, he learns that an economy can still be productive while lavishing its citizens with copious amounts of vacation. Then he goes to France and gets enlightened about gourmet school lunches. After that, it’s off to Finland, where kids are some of the brightest in the world, but don’t have homework.
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The stakes grow progressively higher and more emotional as Moore lumbers along, discovering equal rights for women in Iceland; humane prisons in Norway; free higher education – even for foreigners– in Slovenia; and government-funded women’s health clinics in Tunisia.
Along the way, Moore circles back to a fascinating insight: A lot of these progressive ideas originated in America. It is a Norwegian prison guard who reminds Moore that cruel and unusual punishment is outlawed by the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Moore zeroes in on another common thread: The governments of these countries appear to care about their citizens, and the citizens care about one another. Community trumps money and military prowess.
In one of the most moving scenes, Moore sits with the Norwegian father of a teenager who was murdered during a 2011 attack on a summer camp that claimed 77 lives. There’s no death penalty in Norway, but Moore wonders if this grieving father wishes there were. No, he responds. Killing another person is not a right.
Moore’s goal is not to put down the United States. Rather, he comes across as patriotic, in his own unique way, explaining that these countries weren’t always like this, but that they’ve made innovative changes, and now they’re better off. Why can’t we do the same thing?
Then again, does Moore bring up any drawbacks of living in Norway, France or Tunisia? No. And he manages to get in a few cracks about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney along the way. This is infotainment at its most skewed. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
‘Where to Invade Next’
R for strong language, drug use, violent images and nudity. 1:50. Kentucky.