Senior Editor
08.28.08 51 Comments

This is the review portion of FilmDrunk. It’s a lot more wordy and not as funny as regular FilmDrunk, but then… so’s your face.

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden was released on DVD yesterday, and I watched it. Hooray for me! Just like in his hit debut, Super Size Me, director Morgan Spurlock uses the gimmick implied by the title as a jumping off point. However, Super Size Me‘s premise has a little more power. We expected to see a guy suffer through month’s worth of junk food, and the movie delivered. In Osama, anyone with half a brain understands at the outset that this guy isn’t actually going to find Bin Laden (no groundbreaking news story was ever delivered with a question mark at the end). What Spurlock does find turns out to be compelling, but it also makes you wonder if he needed the gimmick in the first place.

Spurlock spends the first 15-20 minutes of the movie basically justifying the premise, that he knows from watching Jerry Bruckheimer movies that it’s always one lonely guy who saves the world, and blah blah blah. He goes to a survival school to prepare and there’s even a Spurlock vs. Osama video game parody interlude, all set to some puketastically literal background music. It’s all very cute. Morgan Spurlock is cute. I mean, his name’s Morgan for Christ’s sakes. You want to wrap a blankey around his rosey little cheeks and stick him in your bike basket. That said, this is just filler. We know you’re not going to find Bin Laden. Get to the point.

Once Spurlock is actually in Arab country, it becomes a pretty successful documentary. He speaks with middle-class Egyptians, working class Jordanians, a glib, toothless, cave-dwelling Afghani, US soldiers, terrified Saudi schoolboys, and a hate-spewing imam who’s scarier and uglier than anyone from central casting. Spurlock does what any good documentarian should; he goes out and talks to the people we don’t normally hear from, and shows us the things we don’t normally see. We get to hear what the other half thinks and see how the other half lives. It’s important, and if you’re sorta nerdy like me*, interesting.

And it’s not just talking heads. One of Spurlock’s strengths is that the guy does have some balls. He’s may not parachute into a battle zone, but he’s not going overseas just to puss out and drink beer with people either. He’s not afraid to try to get someone in a Hasidic neighborhood in Israel to talk to him, even when they’re visibly hostile to outsiders (Spurlock getting pushed around and jeered at by an angry Israeli mob is perhaps the point in the movie where the danger is most real). And he’s willing to ask the psychotic, terror-advocating imam the tough questions on his own turf, and to try squeeze answers from the Saudi schoolboys in front of their headmasters, even when it’s obvious them exchanging anything more than pleasantries puts everyone in peril. It’s a very well-balanced look at terrorism, from the policy level down to the social conditions that produce suicide bombers, and plenty points in between.

It isn’t cinema verité, and Spurlock doesn’t try to disguise his agenda (or what “he’s learned in the course of his journey”, at least). And thank God for that. Phony neutrality is the worst kind of dishonesty. He doesn’t lay it on too thick, but Spurlock’s point of view seems to be that a few whack jobs at the far ends of the ideology spectrum on both sides have been making life difficult for the great many of us in between who don’t really have a quarrel with each other. That a few assholes are always f*cking shit up for the rest of us is not exactly a groundbreaking discovery, but the road there is still an interesting ride.

And sadly, that only makes the idea an Osama video game parody seem that much more retarded.

Grade: B

*But still all man.

…And now back to your regularly scheduled dick jokes.

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