Where to Invade Next is an expansive, rib-tickling, and subversive comedy in which Michael Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits a host of nations to learn how the U.S. could improve its own prospects. The creator of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine is back with this hilarious and eye-opening call to arms. Turns out the solutions to America’s most entrenched problems already exist in the world—they’re just waiting to be co-opted.
Like most of Michael Moore's documentaries, 'Where to Invade Next' has the director examining some of America's limitations when it comes to work, education, and criminal justice, through the use of humor. Here, his premise is that the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff – upset that their wars over the years haven't improved the country very much – have tasked Moore with going overseas and claiming great societal ideas in the name of America. Hence, the title of this movie. Moore visits over a half dozen different countries, and each one of them seem to have at least something to offer that might make America a better place to live.
Michael's first stop is in Italy, where he tackles the issue of employment. He visits with a young couple who tell Moore about all the vacation time they're granted each year and how what they don't use is rolled over without expiration (the male half of the couple has over 80 days of vacation saved up). He also visits a company where the employees get a two-hour lunch break every day – meaning they can go home and eat with their families before returning to work. The message here, of course, is that more hours on the job doesn't necessarily mean more productivity – as Italians have one of the most productive work forces of any industrialized nation.
Then it's off to France for a humorous look at the lunches being served to French school children. As you can probably guess, they're not served the "junk" that most school cafeterias feed the kids here. There's even a funny bit where Michael convinces a young girl to try some of his Coke. When she has no reaction to it, Moore replies, "Give it 15 minutes." The examination of schools continues in the country of Slovenia, where college is free for everyone – even Americans if they want to travel there. Then in Finland, where students are ranked among the most educated in the world, Moore learns that it's because the children there are never given any homework and they're – gasp! – actually allowed to play a lot during the school day. Again, Moore's overriding message is that more of a thing doesn't equate to a better result.
The most poignant moment of 'Where to Invade Next' comes when Moore visits Germany and discovers that the Holocaust isn't whitewashed in schools there – if anything, it's discussed more in depth there than in any other country – and certainly more than it's taught here in the States. There, the children are taught to own up to the sins of their fathers and take responsibility to make sure that such dreadful events never happen in their country again. Moore can't resist to compare this to America, where our attitude toward slavery and our treatment of the American Indians has been one of "that was a long time ago and we're not responsible for that."
Moore's movie also has him examining the criminal justice system where, in Portugal, he learns that drugs are no longer criminally prosecuted and instead the focus has been put on treatment for those that are addicted. In Norway, he visits two different prisons – both a minimum security one and a maximum security one – where the prisoners are treated with dignity. In fact, even in the maximum security prison, the prisoners have keys to their own cells and none of the officers carry a gun.
Michael's final visit is to Iceland, where he spotlights one of the few banks in the world that wasn't majorly affected by the global financial collapse. As it turns out, the bank is run by a team of women, giving Moore the opportunity to tout how much better women do at running things than men (this point of the film will no doubt seem like a Hillary Clinton endorsement to many, but Moore never mentions her name and, as far as I know, actually has supported Bernie Sanders this year). Then it's back to Berlin for a nice coda to the movie where Moore comments on how, growing up, he though the Berlin Wall was a permanent fixture until one day it was just gone. The message here is that things aren't as hard to change as those in power would have us believe.
I don't agree with some of Michael Moore's political ideas, but I've always found something to enjoy about his movies. I think that's because it's obvious the guy cares about his country and while he takes the ideas he presents seriously, he's never taken himself or the way he presents his material that way. I know there are some out there who think Michael Moore just uses these types of films to pad his wallet – and there's no denying his success has made him a wealthy man – but I just don't buy that. And even if you loathe Moore, at the very least this movie serves as a fun video travelogue of how things work beyond our own borders. For me, the trip was well worth it.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Where to Invade Next' storms the beaches of Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25GB disc with no inserts. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with a trailer for Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story. The main menu features a montage of video footage from the movie, with menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is Region A locked.
'Where to Invade Next' was shot digitally and is presented on Blu-ray in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, opened slightly up from its 1.85:1 theatrical exhibition. While there's some evident noise in some shots and while aliasing is also obvious here and there, this is still, at times, a nice-looking documentary. Nothing that compares to a top-notch transfer to be sure, but full of bright colors and details in spots, as well as segments that show some nice depth to them, as opposed to ones that come off rather flat-looking (although there are a number of those as well).
As with many Michael Moore documentaries, included in the primary footage is a bunch of archival materials – both video and still images – so, obviously, the quality and appearance of those depend on the quality of the source. However, for the most part, I have few complains and most viewers shouldn't either. Skin tones are consistent throughout and black levels – while far from deep – aren't murky enough to be a problem.
From the beginning, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track (the only audio option on this release) is a real surprise. Not to say that it approaches reference-quality or anything like that, but for a movie that's primarily a 'talking heads' documentary, I didn't expect much in terms of the surrounds. The movie opens with the sounds of a helicopter starting up and the swooshing of its blades are both encompassing and immersive. While the audio doesn't maintain that feeling throughout, there are quite a few segments in the movie where the surrounds are used for both ambient noises as well as voices.
Despite filming in various countries and locations, I didn't notice any issues with dropouts or muddiness. There's is some apparent ADR use here and there that a sharp eye/ear will pick up on...which may be more for the director's manipulation of his film (making me wonder if some of the comments by the participants are being shown out of context), but – of course – such ADR existed in the original film and is not a reflection of any problems with the audio track here.
Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
Sadly, there are no bonus materials of any sort on this release.
Regardless of whether you love Michael Moore or loathe him, I think 'Where to Invade Next' is worth your time. For those who lean toward the left of the political spectrum, this is classic Moore material, with him once again pondering why the United States doesn't offer citizens more in the way of social programs and benefits. And for those who want to 'make America great again', at the very least this movie serves as a fun look at how things work differently across the globe. Either way, this Blu-ray is recommended.