Nothing better than a documentary that makes both worthy points and riotous jokes. Michael Moore, who has been extremely ill in the run-up to the release of Where to Invade Next and therefore unable to promote it, opens his film with his “invitation” from the joint chiefs of staff to go invade some countries and bring back bounty. One minute into the film, and I’m already hooting.
And so he takes his American flag and colonizes (intellectually speaking) a number of countries, mostly European. For context, he identifies a few of the problems here that need fixing with a collage of images including the housing crisis, police violence against black youth, the criminal justice system, schools, and food. He’s off to plunder some solutions.
In Finland, he finds out how they went from a poor school rating (equal to the States), to being the world’s #1 best educators (no standardized tests, almost no homework, fewer hours of school). In Italy, he is astonished by the level of workers’ benefits, especially paid leave (8+ weeks), and CEOs tell him why they would rather have satisfied employees than a bit more profit. The profound humanity of the criminal justice system in Norway is a revelation. Slovenia provides free college education to anyone who wants to come and partake. Portugal has won the war on drugs by decriminalizing them across the board and beefing up treatment options. Good food and fine dining, the French feel, is part of a child’s education, so chefs prepare exquisite school lunches. In Iceland and Tunisia, Moore learns about women’s leadership. In fact, the sincere feminism underlying this film is its biggest surprise.
Along the way, we hear how small countries shame the USA with their remarkable achievements – and how, ironically, most of their theories are based on ideas born (or rather stillborn) in the USA. We also meet folks, just folks, in each country who convey a kind of sweet solidarity with their neighbors and fellow humans that too often is lacking here.
Where to Invade Next has been getting lousy reviews from a number of sources, not the least – surprise, surprise – the Wall Street Journal. I haven’t laughed so often during a film in a very long time and I think it’s just the kind of film – ironic but not cynical – that could show untraveled Americans what is not only possible, but is actually happening in other countries. Moore’s film does what travel does: broadens our concepts, undermines our cultural assumptions, and gives us a break from our daily grind. Please go see it.
Here's the trailer: