AFI FEST Review: ‘Where to Invade Next’ Tells Liberals What They Already Know

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Say what you will about his politics or his tactics, but Michael Moore is an accomplished filmmaker. He’s made the highest grossing documentary of all-time with the dubious election-timed politics of Fahrenheit 9/11 and won an Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, not to mention that Roger & Me is an excellent documentary. But Moore’s reputation began to obscure his work, starting with Fahrenheit 9/11. He became bigger than the subjects he was tackling, and a posterchild for smug liberalism. Perhaps that explains Moore’s six-year absence from filmmaking following 2009’s Capitalism: A Love Story. Moore is returning to movie screens with Where to Invade Next, a solution-based look at American issues through policies implemented around the world. While it’s refreshing that Where to Invade Next ditches the smug everything-is-wrong attitude that is often adopted by my fellow liberals, I can’t figure out who Moore is proposing these solutions to as the film is just two hours of reinforcing textbook liberalism to a liberal audience.

The conceit for Where to Invade Next has Moore, citing the failings of American military interventionism following World War II, “invading” other countries, plundering their best solutions for domestic issues in order to bring them back to America. Moore travels to Italy for their national policy of paid vacations; then France for their superb school lunches; the no homework policy of Finland’s highly ranked schools; Slovenia for their policy of free college for all; Germany for their mandate that corporate boards must have worker’s representation; Portugal for their policy of abandoning the War on Drugs; Norway for their compassionate and forgiving prison system; Tunisia for their constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women; and Iceland for their prosecution of the bankers that caused their economic collapse. Each of these stops vary in their intellectual effectiveness and humor. Moore sometimes struggles in conveying these proposed solutions feasibility in the current American political climate.

As Moore ping pongs to various spots, his focus on policy bounces around as well. It’s somewhat a victim of its conceit of Moore as an invader in successive countries. But Moore does little to contextualize the larger cultural roots of each issue in America. Yes, Moore is more focused on solutions than problems, but he’s only examining one side of a two-sided coin.

The biggest problem I found with Where to Invade Next is that I’m entirely unsure who this movie was made for. Equality for women, paid vacations, and practically every other issue raised in the film isn’t far off from the standard liberal viewpoint. At nearly two hours, I felt hammered with policy ideas that I already believed to be sound. Conversely, since the film is a work of Michael Moore, it’ll only embolden conservative opposition to these policies, as they’ll point and yell, “You see, Michael Moore and European socialism!” Moore never acknowledges conservative concerns about these policies, which makes Where to Invade Next a polemic that’s never intellectually challenging as much as it’s just a lecture intended for those already inclined to agree.

Where to Invade Next is Michael Moore’s best film since Bowling for Columbine, but it just can’t escape that overwhelming sense of preaching to the choir. The film is a fairly entertaining political diversion, one that never dabbles in the controversial aspects that earned Moore his reputation. That lack of intellectual weight leave Where to Invade Next a dessert for liberals, sweet and made to order. It should be restated just how nice it is that Moore’s film is strongly focused on solutions instead of doom and gloom, but Moore doesn’t challenge his audience or his opponents by telling them what they already know.

 

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