“We’ve got problems no army can solve,” says Michael Moore of his beloved America. Yes, it would appear that the good ole US of A has now finally reached a crises level from which there is no solution. Forget about their failure to find peace in the Middle-East, their inability to curb gun-control, and the various inadequacies in their health care system, this is nothing more than the glaze on a doughnut of dire societal circumstances.
Convinced that all of their domestic atrocities can be solved by adopting the practises of other nations, Moore heads off with a set of Stars and Stripes on a sort of National Lampoon’s European Vacation style travelogue to see how the other half (of the World) live: why do Italians always appear to be so relaxed? Why are Finland’s schools so successful? And why on earth does Norway’s only maximum-security prison allow inmates to carry sets of keys to their own cell?Adopting his usual subversive nature and recognisable brand of cheerfully sardonic wit, Moore once more makes for a thoroughly engaging host. His politics may remain so stringently one-sided as to be nigh on impossible to digest – there’s a noticeable lack of condemnation towards the Democrats’ failings over the last two terms – but his progressive ambitions are honourable, and there’s a droll delight to be taken from his regular appearance of dazed amazement as various people tell him how much better life is on this side of the pond.
Therein, however, lies the rub. Moore’s arguments haven’t significantly developed in the six years since his last film (Capitalism: A Love Story). He’s been flogging the same tired material for close to three decades now, and its familiarity is beginning to show. A worthier documentarian would instead address America’s problems in the heart of the homeland, not go gallivanting around the Globe searching for a resolution.
Moore maintains a high-level of comedy throughout – an encounter with a group of French students in which he asks them to try and identify what’s being served for lunch in American schools is a notable highpoint – but what his investigation lacks is content. The film’s poor performance at the American Box Office suggests that it may well be time for Moore to change tact if he is to remain as relevant as he once was. For though his new documentary is riotous, it’s also essentially redundant.