Where to Invade Next is another documentary film from director Michael Moore that showcases his trademark methods of filmmaking, including footage carefully selected to illustrate his points, interviews with ordinary people and high-profile figures, and a mix of satirical and sarcastic humor. At the same time, it's not entirely like his previous films. That's because there is a hint of optimism and a bit less angst. Whereas the 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, for example, portrays Moore as sharply critical, the 2015 film Where To Invade Next, if you excuse the title, is one that will make you laugh out loud and frown a little before leaving you with a big smile once the credits roll.
The subject of this documentary is simple: examples of countries other than the United States of America (primarily European nations) that do certain things way better than the USA. Obviously, any documentary can focus on this, but because this is a Michael Moore documentary, he has a funny way to portray the subject matter. At the start of the film, he announces that he, as a solo American, will invade other countries, not to destroy them but to steal their ideas and bring them home to America. It makes sense, especially if you can identify things in America that ultimately came from somewhere else in the world.
To avoid spoiling the pleasant surprises in this movie, I will not mention any of the countries Moore "invades" or any of the ideas he "steals." Instead, I will discuss the style of the segments in general terms. For each of the first several countries, Moore introduces something in the country's culture that is astonishingly better than the same thing in America. He proceeds to interview various people about it and makes us laugh by sharing his own reactions of surprise. It gets even funnier when Moore talks about how the same thing is done in America and we see the non-American people's reaction to that. At the end of the segment, Moore announces that he is stealing the idea to take home, which is met with laughter because it's clearly a joke statement, and plants an American flag as a sign of this victory.
Thankfully, this doesn't get too repetitive all the way through, because there are a few interesting variations to this motif. One idea that Moore acquires from another country will certainly evoke some sadness, but can ultimately do much good for a nation. Also, Moore will, at times, present footage of something in America as a stark contrast, to illustrate that America, as good a country it is, can still learn from other nations. (I even heard from somewhere that no part of this film was shot anywhere in America.) Even so, the variety of interesting topics explored in the various countries ensures that this film has no dull moments.
Another great thing about Where To Invade Next is the narration. Moore doesn't present the countries he visits in no particular order. Rather, he arranges them so that one topic logically and naturally transitions to the next one with ease. Watching the movie can remind us of how multiple issues in a society, whether it's America or elsewhere, are closely interconnected. It's hard to change one thing without have a ripple effect on other things. Honestly, if America were to follow all of the ideas that Moore presents in this film, the country would be way better off. Moore really covers it all here.
As for the humor, I laughed more times with this movie than any of Moore's previous films. Some of it comes from Moore's witty wisecracks. More often, however, the laughter comes naturally from noticing major cultural differences. Basically, Moore lets those differences speak for themselves, so that he doesn't really have to be pushy with the comedy. It's also great that anyone can laugh from this movie. You could be an American who is laughing in disbelief about how other countries are doing certain things better, or you could be a non-American who is laughing in disbelief about how America is doing certain things illogically.
Let's not forget one more great thing about this film, which I already mentioned above: optimism. When you take the time to see how people in other countries live, you cannot help but feel good knowing that it is possible to live a good life in a good country if things are done right. Furthermore, Moore wraps up the film with a very nice message about America that comes full circle. Ultimately, nothing about this movie is anti-American. Yes, he may be honestly pointing out America's flaws, but that is part of loving a country and wanting to see it better, not an anti-American act (as some people, unfortunately, may choose to see it).
Where To Invade Next is perhaps Michael Moore's best movie thus far. I know I said this about Sicko several years back, but this one is even better. It presents the humorous filmmaking style of Michael Moore as we know it while adding a dose of love and appreciation for people, in America and abroad. Overall, it's funny, eye-opening, and inspiring. Given that this film was released just as 2016 U.S. presidential campaigns were getting started, I cannot help but wonder if this movie is also intended to boost support for the two prime Democratic party presidential candidates: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. But I digress. Where To Invade Next is classic Michael Moore that should be invading theaters, because I consider it to be essential viewing for all Americans regardless of political stance.
Anthony's Rating: 10/10
(Review originally published at http://anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/W/Where_To_Invade_Next.htm)