Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? Movie Poster Image
Super Size Me guy heads to the Middle East.
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 93 minutes

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Spurlock chastises world leaders (especially recent U.S. politicians) and holds forth on the world's peoples "getting along." His comedy is received generously, save for a scene in Israel, where men on the street yell and gesture aggressively to get him to leave. Some animated representations of "terrorists" show them in caricatured ways (bearded, scary).

Violence

Frequent discussions of terrorism and recent terrorist acts (including attacks on the United States). When Spurlock takes self-defense training, he pretends to duck grenades and roll around to avoid gunfire; one fake scenario shows a man with his head "exploded" (red paint splatter on the wall). One scene shows conservative Israeli Jewish men behaving aggressively toward Spurlock and his cameraperson; other scenes show tanks and men with guns in Palestine and the Gaza Strip. Spurlock and his crew follow a police squad called to check a possible bomb; the object is exploded safely.

Sex

Some images of Alexandra (Spurlock's wife) pregnant and giving birth in a tub. Some nudity, but nothing racy/sexual.

Language

Occasional language includes "f--k" (a couple of times), "bitch," "son of a bitch," and "s--t."

Consumerism

Starbucks (in Israel).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some interviewees smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that even though this documentary includes animation and director/star Morgan Spurlock's trademark humor, it's not aimed at younger children. It deals with difficult themes -- terrorism, morality, birth, and death -- in ways that are both entertaining and sophisticated. Violence is a theme throughout the movie, coming up in conversations about terrorist attacks, suicide bombers, and U.S. aggression. Actual violent images are infrequent; conservative men in Israel who resent the film crew's intrusion act aggressively, and there are shots of tanks and armed men in Gaza. There's brief imagery of Spurlock's wife giving birth in a tub; language includes a couple of "f--k"s and other profanity.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysmartin April 9, 2008
Teen, 13 years old Written bySpielberg00 June 15, 2011

Not as good a documentary as "Super Size Me". 3.5 stars.

My rating: PG-13 for some strong language in English and Arabic, frequent references to terrorism, and some simulated violence/weapon use.

What's the story?

Pairing physical antics and intelligent humor with serious themes, Morgan Spurlock's WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN? poses a question that's both literal and metaphorical. Like Spurlock's Super-Size Me, it follows a sort of quest structure: Spurlock, moved by the upcoming birth of his first child, travels to the Middle East not to discover precisely where bin Laden is hiding, but to reveal the world in which he lives. After growing a beard and taking a brief "self-defense" training course (rendered in goofily funny segments), he travels to Egypt, Morocco, Israel, and Palestine, as well as the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The hunt leads him to understand as much about how the United States is viewed as about how he and other Americans view the world.

Is it any good?

While the movie's framework occasionally appears too cute and its resolution too obvious (we're all humans, and we need to figure out how to get along), Spurlock's project remains worthy. This is especially clear in his encounters with individual people -- variously receptive, skeptical, and curious -- who say repeatedly that they resent the U.S. government but want to like its people, who reject stereotypes and embrace laughter, complexity, and, most often, openness. "If I've learned anything from action movies," Spurlock says as he embarks on his adventure, "it's that complicated global problems are best solved by one lonely guy"; his joke becomes a kind of mantra as he deploys his charismatic personality in pursuit of connection with the people he meets.

There are some exceptions to the receptiveness and good will, as when Spurlock is accosted on the street by angry Israelis who think he's "intruding" in their land, or when he visits a schoolroom where students are obviously careful in their answers to his questions, since they're being watched by their teachers. And despite lighthearted delivery methods like animation and "baseball cards" for accused terrorists, the movie's fairly basic analysis of U.S. history suggests a sobering mix of ineptitude and short-sightedness. But other instances -- as when Spurlock visits a poor family whose father wishes to provide food and education for his children so their lives might be better, or when Spurlock laughs or commiserates with his many different hosts -- are touching. The film closes with a montage of faces, a collection of portraits collected throughout Spurlock's journey -- old and young, smiling and not, inquisitive and worried -- all suggesting their differences, shared aspirations, and familiarity.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's primary message -- that learning about other cultures and traditions leads to understanding and loss of fear. Do you agree? How does the movie use comedy to address serious ideas like violence, terrorism, poverty, and global politics? Is that approach successful?

Movie details

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