“Where to Invade Next” (2016) – In one of the most politically-divisive times in United States history, Michael Moore is arguably the nation’s most polarizing filmmaker. The man certainly garners opposing reactions from the two “pillars” of American political beliefs, but love him or hate him, there is no denying that Moore makes smart and thought-provoking documentaries. Walking into “Where to Invade Next”, I naturally believed that his latest movie was about the military-industrial complex and the trillions of dollars in war machine money spent since WWII. After about five minutes of screen time, however, one discovers that “Where to Invade Next” carries a very different premise which is pleasant and eye-opening but also simultaneously discouraging and encouraging.
Lest anyone feels disappointed that the word, “invade” in the film’s title is false advertising, because Moore himself actually invades a serious of European countries (and one from Northern Africa) to listen and to take one great idea from each nation to bring back to the U.S. in order to make America a happier place. Although barking against military spending is a thorny concept worth exploring, this movie’s dive into ingenious ideas from other countries brings a welcome and warm experience to the screen. The unfortunate byproduct – at least to American audiences – is that these great solutions to complex issues are simply not operating in the U.S. today.
The narrative works like “Sicko” (2007) – a film which compares health care from other countries to the U.S. system – except rather than solely focusing on one issue, Moore explores a multitude of topics including schooling, vacation time and the role of women in the work place. By simply walking into a school, a corporate headquarters or (in one case) a presidential office, he – armed with an American flag and a camouflaged Detroit Tigers baseball cap – interviews leaders and regular folks from different countries to hilarious and revealing effects.
For instance, we meet an attractive – but financially ordinary – 30-something, Italian couple. They seem genuinely happy, and Moore asks about their vacations (or holidays), and they explain that they enjoy eight weeks every year, plus national holidays. In addition, the pair casually mentions that they are paid for an extra month of wages – a 13th month – in December, so they can afford to go away on holiday. That’s right. Eight weeks of vacation plus an extra month of pay! Next, Moore meets Dukati CEO Claudio Domenicali, and he embraces long vacations for his Italian employees. He explains – from a corporate strategy perspective – that happy workers are also more productive workers.
The film then travels from country to country, as Moore listens to ingenious, out-of-the-box ideas, plants his trusty American flag and promises to take these “ways of doing things” back to the U.S. Now, the concepts are coming from (mainly) socialist European nations, so the chances that the U.S. will implement them on a wide scale are remote, but each visit certainly offers good food for thought.
“Where to Invade Next” successfully stirs disbelief and wonder for the audience, as we see other communities that discovered smarter ways to live. In addition, the picture also captures plenty of humor while Moore presents his interviewees’ reactions to how Americans live. To great comedic effect, several times, the same general look of astonishment appears on the faces of our friends from Italy, Germany, etc., and Moore cleverly continues to leave his camera running to further engage their general bewilderment in silence. Hence, the amazement of this new knowledge falls in both directions: onto the audience and the foreign hosts.
Although the documentary fills the theatre with so many good ideas, it sometimes does lecture, but mainly it attempts to just inform. As Moore states that the United States was “born out of genocide and built on the backs of slaves”, he presents a series of thoughts which could improve our country, and the origin of most of the presented foreign ideas will surprise you. Perhaps, the end-results of “Where to Invade Next” will leave Michael Moore as a much less polarizing figure. Then again, this is 2016, an election year.