This is a capsule review. A full review will be posted closer to release.
Subtlety has never been the specialty, or a necessary aim of documentarian Michael Moore, so the recent surprise announcement of his first feature in six years could have been read as indicative of a change in tactics. While there’s a little subterfuge to the name of his latest film, Where to Invade Next is still very much a Moore documentary. It’s humorous and passionate, as usual, but with a greater sense of disappointment in his homeland than outrage at it. What has been lost is the clear point of focus that’s defined his best works.
Instead of highlighting what else has gone wrong with America since 2009’s Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore opts to focus on what European countries seem to be getting right. The continental-review-as-travelogue setup sees Moore “invading” various European nations (with a stop in Tunisia) in the hopes of bringing back a host of social improvements, including paid vacations, prison reform, and drug decriminalization. Though still smart about when to drop ironic news footage or a particular clip of pop culture shorthand, Moore spends most of the film interviewing students, politicians, and CEOs on a “one nation, one social issue” basis.
The selected interviewees backup Moore’s talking points in entertaining fashion, but in combining those points into a more general indictment of American values, his suggestions come absent firm ground to stand on. Statistical data is rare, and often suspect; a chart comparing American education standards to Finland’s, using the undefined points of “Then” versus “Now,” is one such example of research that’s more anecdotal than actionable. Where to Invade Next optimistically points to plenty of things that would make America better, but gives its audience a more convincing case for a move to Europe than it does a path towards fixing the problems at home.
Where to Invade Next preaches entertainingly to its choir, but offers little in the way of actionable intelligence.