When Michael Moore stood on stage at the Princess of Wales Theatre after the world premiere of his new documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, he mentioned that his crew had jokingly titled his film, Mike’s Happy Movie. That’s probably a better title than Where to Invade Next, which makes the movie sound like it’s going to be about the Military Industrial Complex, or something similar. Instead, the film really is Moore being mostly happy about things. Naturally, Moore is happy because he didn’t film any scenes of his new film in the United States.
The premise of Where to Invade Next is incredibly hokey: Basically, Moore is “invading” a series of countries in an effort to steal some of their better ideas and bring them back to the United States. For example, some of the poorest schools in France have wonderful school lunch programs that cost less than the terrible school lunches that are provided in U.S. public schools. Another example: In Portugal, drug use has been decriminalized, which has resulted in less drug use and a lot fewer non-violent people in Portuguese jails.
Look, as you’re reading this, you already have an opinion on Michael Moore one way or another. Nothing I say is going to sway your opinion; I’d suspect that opinion is ironclad by this point. Personally, I find Moore to be a filmmaker I often agree with politically, yet he’s still somehow one who has the ability to irritate me because there’s never any give in what he’s trying to say. In other words, his movies wind up preaching to choirs instead of actually changing minds. For all the good points Moore is capable of making, he loses too many people in hyperbole. A glaring example in this movie: At one moment, he’s praising Norway’s prison system for its relaxed treatment of prison inmates (at one point, we see a happy-looking prisoner wearing normal clothes, doing a wheelie on a bike down a dirt road). The next, he’s telling us how great Iceland is for the harsh prison sentences all the banking executives received for their role in that country’s financial collapse. This all left me mouthing to the screen, “But you just said…”