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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Where to Invade Next is a Michael Moore documentary in which the famously controversial filmmaker "invades" various countries to "steal" good ideas for the United States -- specifically services geared to help ordinary citizens (more paid vacation, better food in schools, less homework, prisoner rehabilitation, sex education, etc.). There's occasional strong language (a few uses of "f--k," etc.), mentions of mass murder, and brief violent images: police beatings, prisoners being humiliated, riots, and protests. Viewers see brief, non-sexual male and female full-frontal nudity (in a health spa setting), and a man's naked bottom is shown. There are references to sex acts, sex education, STDs, teen pregnancy, and abortion, as well as brief images of people using drugs. Despite the sometimes-strong material, high school teens could get a lot out of this (although anyone not on board with Moore's lefty politics will want to beware).
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What's the story?
In WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, filmmaker Michael Moore imagines that he's been asked by Washington to come up with some new ideas for America, so "steals" ideas from other countries. In Italy, he finds the concept of paid vacations for workers, which results in more productive workplaces. In France, he finds gourmet school lunches and sex education, resulting in happier, healthier kids. He visits Finland, which has the highest-ranked education in the world and discovers their secret: no homework. He also finds a free college, a place where drugs are legal (and drug-related crimes are down), and a place that rehabilitates its prisoners. Can Moore effectively bring these and other ideas back to the United States?
Is it any good?
By now we know that Moore is far from an objective maker of documentaries; his films always have their own slant, but despite that, it's hard to refute some of the good ideas here. "Socialism" may be a dirty word to many Americans, but Moore argues that it's merely about sharing. He posits that, as hard workers, we ought to get out of the system as much as we put in -- and that we'd do better as a helping community than as struggling individuals.
It's not clear exactly what Moore isn't showing us, but according to what we do see, these systems adopted by other countries (and largely, Moore reminds us, based on concepts pioneered in America), result in longer lifespans, fewer unwanted pregnancies, less debt, and less violent crime. Images of American schools juxtaposed with images of Finnish schools are a strong indicator that our country could use some help. Ultimately, despite his usual dopey attempts at humor, Moore's movie is overwhelming and a little depressing, but also hopeful.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which of the ideas that Moore "steals" in Where to Invade Next could actually work in America. Do all of them sound like good ideas? If so, why do you think they aren't already implemented in the United States?
What are the downside to these ideas? What might Moore have left out of the movie? Why might he choose to do that?
Some of the interviewees say that "being the strongest one has stopped [America] from being curious." What does this mean? Is it true? How does Where to Invade Next promote curiosity? Why is this an important character strength?
Why do you think Moore shows images of violence, sex, and drugs in Where to Invade Next -- and include strong language? Do these things help his argument? Could he have reached a wider audience without them?
Do documentaries have to be objective? Why or why not?
- In theaters: December 23, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: May 10, 2016
- Cast: Michael Moore
- Director: Michael Moore
- Studio: Dog Eat Dog Films
- Genre: Documentary
- Character Strengths: Curiosity
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, some violent images, drug use and brief graphic nudity
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