People familiar with Michael Moore are aware he can be a polarizing figure. The other thing to keep in mind is how surprisingly charismatic and affable he can be. While he has made his views clear in past films, there is often plenty of humor to be found as well. This is what works best about Where To Invade Next, an enjoyable documentary that does a lot to keep Moore’s views somewhat in check, while he travels the world to look at how other countries function.
Set up as a farcical call to action, Moore begins this film by announcing he has been tasked by the government to go to other countries and assess how they deal with various social and economic issues. The result is a travelogue putting Moore in countries including France, Italy, Portugal, Finland, Tunisia and more. He conducts interviews with both average citizens and some government officials, with the general conclusion involving Moore humorously planting an American flag in his setting and announcing he has invaded.
The results of this are quite intriguing, but most of all – entertaining. Yes, Moore is a figure who leans heavily to the left, is completely progressively-minded and presents arguments in a one-sided sense. Some may understandably not take to that approach with all of his films, but there is certainly something to be said for how he has put together this documentary. Given the purpose to present the bright side of how various countries do their business, it is not all that surprising that Moore never really digs in too deeply. However, for the purpose of being a film with some insight as well as being entertaining, it does its job.
It comes down to presentation. Obviously, if one is not onboard in a fairly extreme way, opposing what Moore has to say will not help in liking his films. Those who come down more in the middle may know how to assess what makes for a solid filmmaking attempt. This should not take too much away from what to think about the film’s politics, but I feel like it would be hard not to acknowledge Moore’s capabilities at making a feature like this work.
At times the things we do see can be pretty humorous. Watching more deal with the lunches given to children at school in France ends up being a bit of a highlight. There are other moments that really provide interest, such as a trip to Germany, where Moore discovers how honestly the Holocaust is discussed in schools, with no attempt to hide the truth. With all of this, Moore has a point he is getting to, which comes from presenting the things we see as a utopian take on society, were America to incorporate all of what he discovers.
Perhaps one has to wonder how effective a film like this could be from Moore, were Moore not to be so prominently featured. Personally I think the film would lose a lot, because it is really funny. In the midst of the politics coming out of this thing, I do think this is maybe Moore’s most entertaining film in quite some time. It may have some simplified logic in what it presents, but there is an attitude that makes it quite watchable. For me, that was enough.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Clarity/Detail: As interesting and entertaining as I found the film to be, I can admit that it is fairly visually flat. Shot digitally, the Blu-ray presentation does enough to give us what we need out of each segment and a decent level of detail. There’s not much visual complexity, but the picture is still clear enough, given the interview format.
Depth: You get a decent sense of depth here.
Black Levels: As the film is fairly uncomplicated in presentation and focuses mainly on interviews, we never get too much in the way of darkness to have to focus on black levels. That said, some shadowy moments do look nice.
Color Reproduction: Colors play well in this film. You get a lot of distinct settings and colorful clothing that feel well balanced, with plenty of pop.
Flesh Tones: Facial textures are generally fine. You can read the details on Moore and his subject’s faces in a way that shows what is capable here.
Noise/Artifacts: Nothing of note.
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Dynamics: This lossless TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack fine in presenting a talky film that has little else going on. Some of the scene setups and the narration add some differences, but for the most part, we have conversations in open locations that sound good enough.
Low Frequency Extension: Really not much to take away from the LFE channel.
Surround Sound Presentation: Depending on the setting, you may hear some additional elements, but the film is largely front-heavy given its nature.
Dialogue Reproduction: The talking is what you get and you hear plenty of it loud and clear.
Nothing has been offered to supplement this experience, which is disappointing.
I can’t speak for everyone, but Michael Moore does what he does best and has made it pretty accessible this time around. Where to Invade Next is a very funny film that, yes, attempts to tackle issues in a unique and one-sided way. If you can get past some of that and dig what the main message is, you may find yourself enjoying what Moore has to offer. The Blu-ray itself is fine, thought the lack of extras certainly hurts. Enjoy the film if you would like and you may walk away entertained.
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