I remember a point in time where a new Michael Moore documentary was an event. Most notably around Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore managed to draw attention to his documentaries that tackled hot-button issues with all the subtlety of Donald Trump at a campaign rally. Moore intentionally appeals to the emotions of his viewers, pushing the side of an argument he wants to make without really examining – or even acknowledging, sometimes – any downsides or criticisms. This makes Where to Invade Next an unusual film for Moore, in some regards at least. Where to Invade Next follows Moore as he travels to other countries with the intention of claiming their good ideas for the U.S. While he still fails to acknowledge anything that doesn’t support his argument, he tries to appeal beyond pure emotion. If nothing else, he presents some interesting ideas.
Moore, appearing frequently on camera as he tends to do, first stops in Italy, where workers receive up to eight weeks of paid vacation each year, and where the people he meets say that this doesn’t affect productivity. Next is France, where he compares the gourmet lunches they serve children to the foods served in public schools in America. Other countries, mostly European, follow. In Norway, prisoners cannot receive a sentence longer than 21 years, and are required to be treated humanely; they have one of the world’s lowest crime rates. In Portugal, drug use is decriminalized, and treatment is heavily emphasized. Everywhere he goes, Moore asks everyone he meets questions about how these systems work, and he’s told that they work marvelously. So why not bring them back to America?
What the film doesn’t get into are any reasons why some of these policies may not translate the way he wants. Many of these countries are notably smaller in population than the U.S., for example. Implementing changes on these scales may not recreate the results of another country here. On top of that, by tackling such a wide range of issues, he’s not able to do more than skim the surface of most of these topics. Some of the issues mentioned in the film could benefit from separate documentaries, or could be combined with other issues. But that would rob Moore of his ability to feign surprise at the success of a particular issue. Still, it’s hard to deny that Moore knows how to make his documentaries entertaining and informative. The topics raised by Moore are legitimate, and should absolutely be considered seriously.