Dog Eat Dog Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for CompuServe ShowBiz. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade: A-
Director:  Michael Moore
Written by: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 10/22/15
Opens:  December 2015

Noam Chomsky may be the leading critic of U.S. government and corporate policies, but in the end he says that the U.S. is “the greatest country in the world.”  Can Michael Moore say the same about our fair nation?  If Moore believes we are “the greatest country in the world,” he has an effective way of hiding this opinion.  In “Where to Invade Next,” he travels the world, at least to those places he considers superior to our own—in work culture and education particularly—and concludes with the viewpoint that he was determined to prove before the start of his journey.

Michael Moore, who as an ironist could easily give Jon Stewart a run for the euros, explores this theme: just as the U.S. is “famous” for invading foreign countries in some cases to force them to “steal” our ideas about democracy, Moore will invade Europe to steal from them and bring their riches back to America. But no, unlike Cortes and Pizarro he is not stealing their gold but rather he is stealing their ideas, their ideology.  Like love, the more you take the more that exists, Moore figures that the more you spread European values around, particularly to the States, the more they will find favor.

There is as much chance for the U.S. to adopt Western European values as there is for Bernie Sanders to be elected in a landslide.  But the more that Moore lays out the European ideology, the more convincing he sounds.  So why can’t Americans see that as well?  The Big Answer is not that difficult to perceive: profit.  If American companies did what Europeans companies seem willing to do (though the Europeans are on camera and who knows what these corporate heads really believe?), they could not enjoy their obscene millions while workers here are being laid off, their jobs sent to China and India.  And if the U.S. government spent what the European governments shell out for education, the U.S. would have to raise taxes beyond what the citizens are willing to pay, or downsize the military.

He looks, for example, at Finland, a country now considered number one in education, at least below the college level.  Why are Finnish students doing so well?  Lots of homework?  Lots of test preparation?  Long school days, as is often suggested for the schools here in the U.S.?  No, just the opposite.  The Finnish kids who admit to doing any homework, even on camera, are proud to say they do from zero to seven minutes’ worth each night.  Without really exploring what there is about the Finnish educational system, Moore relies on the argument that the very willingness of their school system to allow more time for play, for recreation, for being on their own time, the more the kids can learn.  He ignores the possibility that the uniform culture of that nation, yes that’s the one with the bizarre language, is responsible largely for the productivity of the schools, nor does he examine whether Finland’s size, much smaller than our own, is a factor.

And what about the cost of education?  It’s free in Slovenia—formerly part of Yugoslavia—and no student interviewed by the filmmaker claims to be in debt.  In fact a couple of American students are enrolled in the University of Ljubljana, free tuition, taking advantage of the many courses taught in English.

When it comes to food, France has it hands-down over America, but that’s not something even the tea party over here will take the trouble to dispute.  But what’s surprising is the level of food and service in the school cafeterias.  He looks into one school in a poor district and finds that, no, they don’t copy America whose school cafeterias serve mystery meat, murder-burgers, and ketchup that is considered a vegetable here.  Instead the chef comes out to help serving, the kids are at small tables, and the food looks as though it came from New York Per Se restaurant or at least Restaurant Daniel.  And fancy cheeses are served at every lunch.  Nor do the kids even like Coke.  They thrive on water.

As for work, his interview with a couple in Italy gives us the notion that Italians have eight weeks of paid vacation, if you include Italian holidays, and while we have zero pay for maternity leave, and in fact you could be fired simply for taking maternity leave, Italian women can take five months off with pay.  And the CEOs interviewed by Moore may be fibbing, but they say they had no problem whatever with shelling out these wages.  (Never mind that Italy has powerful unions.)

Overall the reason for European superiority over America is that Europeans pay higher taxes, but they get a lot more, while sixty percent of American income taxes go to the military.  Sixty percent!  When you add up what Americans pay for health insurance and other goodies, it turns out that we pay more in “taxes”—employing the term loosely.

As in Moore’s other documentaries, there may be exaggerations.  After all, this is not a balanced treatment.  The director has his conclusions before ever presenting his passport in Europe and makes sure his interviews conclude accordingly.  The viewers who have the time (and who has the time, given the tempo of American work?) would want to check out these assumptions.  But one thing may be agreed upon whether the audience members are socialists, capitalists, tea-party advocates or out-and-out fascists or communists.  Michael Moore is the most entertaining documentarian out there with only Morgan Spurlock at a close second.  There is not a single Michael Moore movie that is boring.

Unrated.  110 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – A-


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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