Where to Invade Next movie full length review - a call to expand America's consciousness - with some laughs!
I was angry for many parts of Where to Invade Next. It wasn't at Michael Moore, though I'm sure that if people come in who already have a predisposition or strong feelings about the man then it will come out that way, and this certainly won't change that.
If anything, on paper, this premise is the kind that would likely make US conservatives froth at the mouth: Michael Moore goes around to various European countries (and Tunisia, in North Africa) to "invade" their lands so he can find really, really good ideas and bring them back to the United States so we can claim them as our own. It's not really a spoiler to say that, ultimately, what Moore finds is that it's like a Wizard of Oz thing: we could go home all along; that is to say, we as Americans *could* have a lot of these nifty things like good education for young people (and healthy/nutritious meals for lunch), sensible drug policy and treatment in place of automatic imprisonment (and better prisons that), fair and equal treatment for women in the workplace, paid (!) vacation and maternity leave, and so on and so on and on. The point is, Moore is challenging that America is (gasp) not great right now; it's a critical analysis, and yet...
It's not to say every single idea that Moore comes across here America came up with first, but one of the surprising things, and what made me angry for good chunks of it, is that America came up with things like strong unions and worker rights in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it's in our own 8th amendment to not have cruel and unusual punishment for prisoners. There's so much here that one can find that it probably merits a second viewing, but the first impression is something like full-blown consciousness expansion: like, THIS is what we COULD have? Moore seems as surprised as his audience might be, despite the fact that he probably (no, quite likely) knows this stuff before going in to interviews. Then again that president from Slovakia, sorry, no it's Slovenia...
One of the things that Mark Twain once said, which has been a lot of Moore's mantra through his 25-plus film career, is, "I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." No fiercer has Moore been critical than in this film - or, I should say, in such a package that has so many ideas. If there's something I would criticize the movie for it's that it could have done with being longer, as a mini-series for example. But Moore gets a lot done in 119 minutes and it doesn't feel long or drawn out - just when you think Germany and how it presents itself as an example of, say, teaching its young about the holocaust and with constant, blistering reminders (unlike the US, by and large, with slavery and Native American decimations), then we get to Norway and it takes on a whole other dimension with the prison system.
Moore may be optimistic ultimately, taking from all of these citizens and workers and businessmen and lawyers and, yes, women who run major companies in places like Iceland, that there has to be another way to find some good with the American system. I do wish that Moore had pointed out a little more distinctly the underlying difference (or a major one) between America and Europe being religious fervor with politicians and (some of) the public - at best we get a glimpse via the abstinence portion with a Rick Perry clip - but that will be something some may see and some won't. Of course Moore pick and chooses his targets, and he says up front that he knows these countries have their not-so-good qualities; I'm sure you can look up all the problems these countries have (i.e. France with its turmoil with Muslim immigrants), not to mention it's just slightly dated now due to this being made before the (as of now current) crisis with Syrian refugees. That's what a filmmaker does, and he does his picking and choosing with a skill that shows a lifetime of work as a filmmaker and entertainer.
I don't know how many people will see the move in its initial run - it has some buzz but nowhere near Moore at his height with Fahrenheit 9/11 (it's easier to catch the zeitgeist when you make films about notorious school shootings and the worst president in a hundred years), and yet it may be his magnum opus, the work that encapsulates a lot of what this man has put together through his films and television shows. And it's not all some slog of a lecture; Where to Invade Next is loaded with great bursts of humor and jokes, sometimes spur of the moment, other times with Moore's knack for montage and juxtaposition of clips, or just text like when he introduces certain countries. I do hope it gets a wide audience as it is a movie meant for everybody - it's criticism in the great Twain tradition of loving a country so much you can't help but yell, with cinematic grammar, how wrong it's strayed in economy, education, health, justice, equality and unions and so on.