In a refreshing departure from Michael Moore’s usual complex political narrative, Where To Invade Next has a very simple premise, which is explained clearly from the outset: Moore is hopping around Europe to “invade” and claim an array of their political and economic policies and ideologies to bring back to America in order to improve the state of affairs back home.
Easy to follow, and there are no big surprises along the way. This incremental “story” is one of the film’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. It’s accessible and predictable in form, but also never seems to lead to any kind of climax or great breakthrough. More like a series of short films, each country providing its own set of interviews around a certain issue. Which of these connect with the viewer will probably depend largely on the lifestyle and life stage of the viewer themselves. For example, in France, Moore compared the quality of school lunches there with those in the US (spoiler: US lunches didn’t stack up favourably). While I found this chapter interesting, I’ve have never had any experience with school-provided food, so the content didn’t deeply connect with me. Contrast with the Italian chapter about maternity leave, public holidays and paid leave in general, which I found very engaging and relevant to my needs, as someone who never feels like I’ve had enough holiday time.
One of the more prominent criticisms against Moore is that his left-leaning agenda sometimes causes him to be a little slippery with the facts. That’s no different here, even though it’s often not him doing the talking. On their own, each individual element stacks up, at least as far as my limited Googling revealed. It’s more the larger narrative that is never explicitly mentioned, this idea that Europe as a whole has shirked the faulty ideals that are holding the US back. But between Burkini banning, the racist outbursts that accompanied Brexit, and some publicly shaky economies, even a political ignoramus like me knows Europe isn’t without its problems.
Moore does address this issue head on. He acknowledges that while it’s not perfect over there, he’s there to “pick the flowers, not the weeds”. You might say that delivering this caveat right off the top allows him to never mention a negative thing about Europe for the remainder of the movie, as he’s already explained his agenda. But you could also say this is mere one-sentence lip-service to a very important point – a point undermined constantly by the following 90 minutes of Euro-envy.
Funny and informative, Where To Invade Next isn’t necessarily a must-watch, but certainly a very recommendable comedy-documentary (comedocumentary?) for fans of either genre.