Michael Moore has mellowed with age.
With movies like “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” the documentary filmmaker held the feet of the American public to the political flame. His bold and blunt approach made their point without any apologies.
Moore’s latest effort, “Where To Invade Next,” starts with the same commitment. But the filmmaker cushions his point with a final scene that shows more optimism than in the past.
In “Where To Invade Next,” Moore travels to a number of countries in search of grand ideas he can claim for the United States. And, the term claim means to steal.
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In Italy, Moore chats with workers about how they have eight weeks of vacation every year, along with numerous holidays and liberal work schedules for maternity leave. He’s shocked to discover that management is on board with the schedules because they found a well-rested employee is more productive and less likely to take sick days.
Moore claims the idea with a ceremonial planting of an American flag.
Moore’s trek takes him to France where school lunches are four-course meals served on china and put together by a chef. The meals are filled with delicacies but cost no more than the average lunch in an American school. Moore’s so impressed with this culinary approach he claims the idea for America.
The film continues as Moore skips around Europe claiming ideas about free college tuition, a more humane approach to the justice system, the benefits of embracing a horrific history and schools without homework.
Each idea is shown with the typical Moore approach of his wading into the middle of the story to offer his own insights. More than in any other of his past work, Moore often seems at a loss for words in “Where To Invade Next.” When that happens, he misses opportunities to press an issue or offer his own original insights.
Moore’s big mistake is the ending where he explains that all of these innovating and creative ideas originated in the United States. Instead of an indictment of American policies, the movie becomes a salute to the United States. It’s a pulled political punch that Moore hasn’t done in the past when he was more intent on showing his deep unhappiness with American policies.
The approach softens the blow but Moore still manages to make his point: America can do better if it would only act on its ideas. “Where To Invade Next” isn’t Moore’s best, but even when he shows a newfound restraint the filmmaker’s work always generates conversation.