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WHERE TO INVADE NEXT. (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Michael Moore
Review by Gilbert Seah
When the title of Michael Moore’s new movie WHERE TO INVADE NEXT. was announced at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was followed by an auditorium of laughter. What would s***-disturber Michael Moore come up next to enrage his new film subject(s)? His then new film was totally hush-hush till it premeired at TIFF. Surprisingly, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT. offends no one. It is a crowd-pleaser with Moore even praising the United States, though only at the film’s very end. Moore must be getting soft in his old age.
The premise is a neat one. Moore travels to different countries, steals the ideas that work and returns with them to the United States. Moore plants the American flag wherever he travels in victory after stealing the ideas, though many countries would gladly have the U.S. adopt them. Italy is first visited first. Th idea of paid vacations, extended holidays and happy workers is the norm of the Italians. In France, it is the wonders of a different public school cafeteria food that makes the difference in healthy kids. Other countries visited include Germany, Portugal, Norway, Iceland and the highly surprising Slovenia and finally Tunisia. It is a fun trip. But the film runs long at close to 2 hours and like any vacation, no matter how entertaining, can grow a bit tiresome.
But what Moore clearly misses out on are the reasons the United States can never follow the ‘stolen’ policies of Moore’s invaded countries. One cannot just take one working concept from one country and implement it into another. Culture, upbringing of the people all come into play. Americans are known to be taught to be individualistic, and one against all, quite unlike for example the asians where, respect for oneself comes last.
Unlike Moore’s other films like ROGER AND ME and BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE in which the subjects were very focussed like GM’s auto factory and gun availablity, this film is scattered and is all over the place like the countries he hops to, one after another. Why did Moore pick most of the countries in Europe, one from Africa and none from Asia? There is also no reason for the order of his countries in terms of the importance of policies.
But Moore captures the film’s idea in one brilliant segment in which he asks a Tunisian woman to give a two-minute advice to the American people. “If you have to minutes of advice to give to the American people, what would it be?” And what she says hits the nail right on the head. This is the common theme tying in all of the film’s ideas of what makes a country work. The film contains many other moving moments like the one in which a Norwegian father of a dead son (the 2011 Norway summer camp massacre) confesses that getting revenge on his son’s killer solves nothing.
Moore’s film is nicely concluded, like a textbook with an ending to please the U.S. Moore says all the success stories from the countries have all originated from ideas in the United States. All the Americans need to do is to follow. But easier said than done. In this way, Moore tries the other way, (compared to using anger as, in his other films) i.e using niceness to get his point across.
The result is a crowd-pleasing, very entertaining film that somehow will have the same difficulty of getting Moore’s point or points implemented. The question is whether audiences like the nastier old Moore or the nicer new Moore.
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