Michael Moore’s previous film essay was 2009’s Capitalism: A Love Story. He’s back with this new documentary that compares and contrasts various aspects of American institutional life to that of other countries. So Moore visits Italy to learn about its liberal vacation policies, France for healthful school lunches, Slovenia for free college, Norway for nice prisons and so on. Some of the material is anecdotal, and Moore often seems to be reaching for the polar extremes to make his rather-obvious points. For instance, Norwegian prisoners sunbathing on a lawn is paired with footage of American prison guards beating an inmate.
The film’s prevailing gimmick has Moore “invading” other countries to steal their best ideas. It isn’t that funny to start with and really wears thin over this nearly two-hour movie. And way at the end is Moore’s buried lede — that most of these ideas other countries borrowed from us in the first place. (I just wanted to reach into the film, compress and re-arrange it!)
There is some provocative material, and the occasional laugh, though Moore’s silliness seems at odds with the seriousness of his purpose. Unquestionably, these differences in how various countries address critical quality-of-life issues like health care, education and criminal justice should be aired and debated. But Moore’s film too often feels like the one-side polemics that already discourage such discussions from happening in a constructive fashion.