Above all else, Michael Moore’s sincerity enables his films to be so compulsively watchable. Whether or not you agree with his politics, he is a born documentarian and effective entertainer – emphasis on the latter. Where to Invade Next sees Moore returning to his comedy roots after angrier movies such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Capitalism: A Love Story. Despite the militaristic title, Where to Invade Next refers to Moore “invading” countries (mostly European) to take their best ideas to bring back to America in the hopes we’ll co-opt them and create better, more humane lifestyles for ourselves. This may sound like Moore cherry-picking the most socialistic, dreamy liberal ideas and trumping them up for mass consumption in our capitalistic culture. That’s not inaccurate, but where Moore strikes gold is presenting these ideas not only as superior compared to the way we do things, but also more cost-efficient and ethical. The film gets off to a rocking start before stumbling to the finish line.
Moore wastes no time with his first stop in Italy. There he meets a serial-vacationing couple that takes full advantage of the weeks of paid time off they receive. There’s immediate improvement to be made in the United States as employees receive exactly zero weeks of government-mandated vacation time. His next stops focus on education. Finland’s educational system has become the envy of the world with short school days, no homework, less testing, and unbelievable results. The focus is purely on the student, with the country boasting that there are no bad schools; they’re all the same no matter where you live. France serves up gourmet, multi-course lunches to their students, even in the poorest of neighborhoods. Most surprisingly, the cost is less than the U.S. pays for its sparse, unappetizing options served on styrofoam plates. Germany specializes in corporate balance by insisting workers’ representatives be present on every company board.
A few other stops are made. In Slovenia, university education is free for all – even non-citizens. Norway treats imprisonment completely different from the U.S., taking a rehab approach focused on getting prisoners back into society as quickly and effectively as possible. Extensive time is spent in Iceland, the country with the most businesswomen in positions of power. Their recovery is attributed to a women-led investment firm that survived the 2008 economic collapse and helped get the country back on track.
Where to Invade Next operates at maximum effectiveness when Moore gets honest opinions out of his interviewees regarding what they really think of America. There are plenty of bug-eyed reaction shots (the Italian couple may as well have seen a ghost upon hearing of the U.S.’s vacation time policy) and Moore presents much of it in a “look, this is common sense” capacity. The torrential pace of the first two-thirds gives way to a slower, less engaging final half-hour. To ask people to invest heavily in the collapse and rise of Iceland’s economy is a strange decision that doesn’t yield the interest it should. At the last stop, the Berlin wall, Moore laments about how quickly change can occur when society puts its mind to it. It’s an interesting, yet somber conclusion as Moore seems undecided about whether we can do it. Though still worth a look, Where to Invade Next falls in the bottom half of the Moore canon, neither as organized or potent as previous offerings.
Studio: Dog Eat Dog Films
Length: 110 Minutes
Rating: R for language, some violent images, drug use and brief graphic nudity.
Theatrical Release: December 23, 2015 (Limited)
Directed by: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore, Krista Kiuru, Tim Walker