Where To Invade Next Directed by Michael Moore. Rated R. Opens Friday at Regal Colonnade, Century Suncoast.
After a series of increasingly despairing documentaries (Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, Capitalism: A Love Story) chronicling the various ways in which the United States is failing its citizens, Michael Moore tries a more optimistic approach in his latest film, Where to Invade Next. Its premise is both simple and playful: Moore claims to have been hired by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to visit various European countries and claim their best ideas for America. Among the allegedly annexed policies are Italy’s generous vacation benefits (at least 30 days per year), France’s gourmet school lunches, Slovenia’s completely free universities (even for foreigners) and Norway’s comparatively humane prison system (which focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and in which even the most heinous crimes receive a maximum sentence of 21 years).
Each of these arguments inevitably inspires a “Yes, but …” response in the mind of any thinking viewer—in the case of Slovenia, for example, one might credibly wonder whether a free education system created for a population of 2 million would work in a nation with a population of more than 300 million. Where to Invade Next does too little to head off such objections; the film’s use of statistics and infographics is at best glib and at worst deliberately misleading. Still, there’s a core of truth underlying all of these observations, which is that it’s possible to find a healthier balance between corporate profit and overall human happiness than the U.S. generally favors. Moore’s solutions might not always be practical, but at least he’s now actively looking for solutions, as opposed to just griping about problems.