Alex Casey is a staff writer for New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Movie review: Where to Invade Next

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In contrast to his usual doom-and-gloom, Michael Moore takes a more optimistic path.
Michael Moore in Where to Invade Next.
Michael Moore in Where to Invade Next.

He has been gone for six years, but now Michael Moore is back to squint at our sideways world in Where to Invade Next.

He has tackled such hefty topics as America's bonkers gun control (or lack thereof) in Bowling for Columbine, inadequate healthcare in Sicko and lack of government transparency in Fahrenheit 9/11.

This time he looks for solutions.

Where to Invade Next lifts its anchor from Moore's motherland, the US, and sets out to nick the rest of the world's good ideas.

The premise is simple, but it begins with a farcical hook.

As with all his work, Moore leavens the lumps of truth he serves up with jokes. Voicing over stock and archive images - a Moore staple - the film-maker reveals he has been in talks with the US Heads of State. They have given him a mission to save their nation through invasion - but not invasion as history has known it. Instead of bombings, gunfire and the eternal promise of oil, he is heading out to pillage advice from societies that are slightly more enlightened.

The path of invasion first takes him to Italy to observe phenomenal conditions for the middle and working classes - including months of paid holidays and mandatory two-hour lunch breaks.

France yields incredible revelations about sex education and kids' school lunches, and Slovenia shows the value in making tertiary education affordable for all - by removing fees altogether, even for international students.

He travels as far as Tunisia, where he examines the country's progressive Government-run women's clinics.

All the while, Moore peppers his storytelling with reminders from home.

Picturesque shots of Norwegian prisoners cycling around their idyllic island compound are followed by grainy, gut-churning footage of American prison wardens beating and humiliating African American inmates.

Moore is a master of juxtaposition and the messages speak for themselves. He has had enough of talking about the US, and his raw, dewy-eyed responses to other countries' systems say more than words can.

As much as Where to Invade Next sweeps you into its simplified utopian conceit, it is important to take every message with a grain of Government-funded table salt.

Even Moore admits he is cherry-picking the most attractive parts of each country. Yes, Italians have incredible working conditions, but there's no mention made of the organised crime, corruption and general terrible treatment of women.

But he provides examples of working solutions within each field of public life. Whether they would all work together is another story.

Where to Invade Next is a departure from Moore's typically cynical, end-of-days vibe - this doco feels different, even optimistic.

And although Moore does not present one cohesive solution, at least he's asking the questions in the first place.

It may even prompt you to turn the microscope on life in New Zealand.

Rated M
Showing now

- Spy.co.nz

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