Where to Invade Next
Reviewed by Peter Travers in the January 28, 2016 edition of Rolling Stone. Read online here.
Michael Moore has a blast showing us how we’re screwing up things that once made this country great
by Peter Travers, February 11, 2016
Has Michael Moore gone soft? You might think so, making a snap judgment of Where to Invade Next, a crazy-like-a-fox documentary hellbent on seeing the best in people. Other people. Not us Americans. Turns out we suck at practicing what we preach. So here’s Moore, the proudly schlubby Michigan warrior, heading off to Europe to plant our flag in countries where folks know how to live. In other words, he intends to steal the good stuff and bring it home. Naive? For sure. Manipulative? You bet. Moore’s detractors see him as an arrogant fat cat passing himself off as the common man to nail easy targets. Even his supporters buy the arrogant part, but find – as I do – that Moore is just the pain in the ass we need in a crisis. Moore’s newfound mellow approach in Where to Invade Next is meant to disarm us. This is Big Mike the entertainer, not the provocateur of cinematic missiles such as Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko. Don’t believe it. No laugh in this doc – and there are plenty – goes out without a sting in its tail.
Moore sets up his film by daydreaming about a summons from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Instead of using Marines, use me,” he pleads. As we watch a collage of America at its worst – bank scandals, stock frauds, housing foreclosures, black teens murdered by cops – Moore sets out to invade the world for bright ideas.
In Italy, he meets a couple who get 30 days paid vacation each year with no loss in productivity. Their bosses encourage two-hour lunches at home, where families can connect. In France, Moore is astonished by school kids who are served nutritional food, including several kinds of cheeses (Camembert, mais oui!), and are horrified by the slop washed down with sugary soft drinks in America. They drink water. In Slovenia, college is free – even for foreigners – and students go on strike if anyone even thinks about charging tuition. (Take that, American students who start life burdened with staggering college loans.) In Finland, students attend school for shorter hours, are rarely given homework and still rank among the best in the world.
OK, Moore is cherry-picking the most damning evidence. And you keep wishing he’d push harder and go deeper instead of skipping off to the next thing. But he’s not making things up. And when he ventures into even more incendiary territory, the facts emerge with distressing impact.