You probably already know what you think of Michael Moore. He's either a whiny, communist fatso or a crusader for justice whom you've admired since he dragged Cheney, et al., over the coals during the invasion of Iraq. Perhaps not coincidentally, the invasion also plays a key role in the setup of his newest movie, Where to Invade Next.
America hasn't won a war in a while, Moore posits, so why not use the military that nearly 60 percent of our taxes support to invade a country we can get something useful from?
That useful stuff, by Moore's standards, turns out to be an array of social infrastructures from countries in Western Europe. In Italy, the film's first stop, he documents the average Italian's time off—35 days a year, five months if someone has a kid, and an extra 15 days for getting married. In Portugal, he talks to cops and health experts who no longer bust drug offenders. Instead, they just offer heroin users and the like help, if they want it. In France—nutritious and delectable school lunches and comprehensive sex ed. In Norway—prisons without violence. In Finland—schools without homework.
It's pretty formulaic, but it's also enraging. These people are happier and healthier, Moore argues. Nobody works two jobs. Everybody has more sex. And worst of all, many of these ideas—Norway's pastoral, reformatory prisons and Finland's holistic education—were initially American ideas. So why, Moore demands, don't we have them?
The information is packaged convincingly, but arguments about the "Americanness" of great ideas always fall flat, especially out of the mouths of lefties like Moore. How many public high schools in our own fair city are named after lionized former presidents who owned humans as property? Two. Which is to say, subjugation is a much older facet of our cultural identity than holistic education—though Emma Goldman High School does have a certain ring to it.
The movie also glosses over some of the existential issues that those other countries face: the macroeconomic nightmare that is the Eurozone, the resurgence of right-wing militants, and the fact that Icelanders have to use an app for the national birth registry to make sure they don't accidentally diddle their cousins.
Then again, those issues plague us Americans, too—maybe not so much the inbreeding—plus, we also have to worry about saving our sick days.
Critic's Grade: B
see it: Where to Invade Next is rated R. It opens Friday at Cedar Hills.