Documentarian provocateur par excellence Michael Moore returns after an six-year absence with his most affable, most hopeful feature yet. (He insists he’s actually angrier than ever, but maintains that he is an optimist.) A polemic that eschews much of the snark—and, consequently, the hilarity—of his previous films, Where to Invade Next chronicles Moore’s jaunts to various European countries (what he calls “invasions”), where he extrapolates and relays lessons for the United States regarding healthcare, paid vacation, women’s rights, the justice system, cafeteria food, and so on. Dressed in his usual slobbish garb of saggy jeans and a Detroit Tigers hat (which sort of works in this context), he speaks with dignitaries, workers, CEOs, children, and chefs, asking them how we can improve America. And oh boy, do they have some ideas.
Because it lacks the formal bravado and audacity of his earlier films, and because the writer-producer-director (mostly) allows his interview subjects to speak for themselves instead of interjecting with Moore-isms, Where to Invade Next feels like a minor effort, Moore toning down and holding back his usual fervor. He presents few epiphanies—it’s no secret that American education and healthcare are currently a shambles, and the insurmountable amount of debt accrued by students is depressing—but the obviousness of these observations, and the surprise with which people react upon hearing how alien the notion of, say, paid vacation is to an American, only reinforce his point. He shouldn’t have to tell us this.